We know we're getting close to the end of Lent because the tones of the Gospel readings have changed. At the beginning of Lenten season, the readings' themes were things like prayer, mercy, forgiveness, humility, almsgiving, etc. Now, especially in this past week, the Gospels are confrontational. All this week we've read the confrontation between Jesus and the Scribes and Pharisees. "Who do you think you are doing this healing on the Sabbath?" Who is he? He is the Son of God, only you can't see that.
Now, in today's Gospel, we see them continuing in their anger, trying to get the Temple Guards to do their dirty work. They find something to hang on to: The Scriptures say the Messiah will come from David's family and from David's town of Bethlehem. Now they feel justified in not becoming followers; now they feel good about themselves, all over that one fact. Why didn't anyone in that crowd say, "Let's go ask him where he came from"?
Nicodemus diffuses their momentum by asking, "Do we always condemn someone without hearing from them first?" He is one of those great characters of Lent through whom we see a progressive conversion. In the 3rd chapter of John, he sees Jesus at night, not wanting to be seen publicly with Him. Here he is now willing to give him the benefit of a doubt, but still won't publicly support Him. Finally, Nicodemus comes totally to Jesus in Passion account of Good Friday, how Nicodemus joins Joseph of Arimethea in caring for the Lord's body, bringing with him costly spices to anoint His body and helping lay Him in the tomb.
So, they don't want to know where he is from; they've hung their whole argument against Jesus on one fact, and do not want to know anything different. How many people do that today? How many people (including out own Catholics) continue to criticize the Church for one issue or event, which they justify their whole disinterest or lack of involvement?
When I was a child, our neighbor had an angry dog. But there was a big chain link fence between my yard and the dog's yard, so I knew the only thing the dog could do to me was bark at me. Some Catholics have decided to stay on the other side of the fence, far away and uninterested from the Church. More than a few like to straddle the fence, close enough to jump in if they want something from the Church, but also positioned far enough that they can jump away if the Church asks something from them. Lent is the time to jump inside the fence, because that means I'm forced to deal with the dog I've been avoiding for all this time.
Who knows? Maybe the dog will lick your face.