3.11.18 Sun. Wk 4 – Lent – B
Chronicles 36:14 – 16, 19 – 23 Ephesians 2: 4 – 10
Gospel John 3: 14 – 21
Please refer to your own Bible for the Scripture readings
Homily: Fr. Mike Murphy To Be The Love Of God
There are believers who, in time of crisis, have doubts that God loves them. Maybe when things are going poorly in their life, they think they are being punished for some past and obscure sin. Maybe they think God is angry with them. How can we be certain that the Lord loves us and is always with us and rooting for us? These words of Jesus to Nicodemus answer these doubts: “God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that everyone who believes in Him might not perish but might have Eternal Life.” (John 3:16) These words sum up all of Salvation History – from the Garden of Eden to the end of time.
Our Salvation History is a history of sinners and saints. Yes, saints were sinners, too. But with saints, they struggled with their weakness to live virtuous lives and eventually their virtue outweighed their sinfulness; but yet – they were sinners. And our individual Salvation History is a story of God’s love and mercy for us – even with our sinfulness. When Jesus said: “God so loved the world”; He spoke of a love that reached out to all of humanity; all the World; God’s love for every one of us. Imagine how this love is manifested toward people who are guilty of sin (which is all of us). And then some people who are guilty of the most heinous sins in history, and God’s love still reaches out to them. God loves us all before we sin, God loves us while we are sinning, and God loves us after we sin, as well. If we have doubts about this – look at the length God went to – to show us His love. The Father gave us the Best He had, He gave us His Son, Jesus. That’s how much He loves us – He gave us the best He had. And Jesus reflected that love by giving of Himself as an offering to God for our sake – so we would not suffer eternal punishment.
On the cross, Jesus was saying: “Father, I love Aida so much I am willing to die for her. Father, I love Sean so much, I am willing to die for him. Father, I love Bianca so much, I’m willing to die for her.” Just put your name in that phrase. That’s what Jesus was saying from the cross – when He said: “Father forgive them – for they know not what they do”. He was thinking of you, thinking of all of us. God will not force faith or eternal life on us – but the risk of God’s unconditional love – is that we can choose to reject His love. God is like the Father in ‘The Parable of the Prodigal Son’. He cannot rest until His wandering child comes home again. I am that wandering child at times. You are that wandering child at times. Your child who left the faith – is that wandering child at times. Your spouse – who is emotionally distant, who no longer comes to Church with you; he or she is that wandering child, as well.
Jesus said to Nicodemus: “And this is the verdict – that the light came into the world, but people preferred darkness to light because their works were evil”. (Jn.3:19) The Greek word used here for “verdict” also means “crisis”. A crisis does not last forever – a crisis of faith can be overcome through the love, through the mercy of God, if we are open to His love. But He will not force His love upon us. Have any of you who are married – experienced a crisis in your marriage? Wasn’t that crisis overcome by the mutual love of you and your spouse – working together? When your children have a crisis – your love and care helps them to get through that difficult moment. The Lord never stops loving us – He never denies us the gift of His grace. The Lord is with us at every moment of life.
We heard this proclaimed from the 2nd Book of Chronicles this morning: “In those days, all the princes of Judah, the priests and the people added infidelity to infidelity…Early and often did the Lord, the God of their fathers, send his messengers to them, for He had compassion on His people”. (2 Chronicles 36:14-15) God never abandoned His people, even when they turned their backs on Him. The Lord continued to send His prophets, reminding the people of His love and His desire to remain in covenant with them. And when the people wandered in the wilderness, and were struck by seraph serpents because of their sinfulness, God did not abandon them. God instructed Moses to mold the figure of a serpent and put it on a pole; and everyone who gazed upon it was healed. That serpent represents the serpent in the Garden of Eden that led Adam and Eve into sin. Why did God choose to use that symbol on the pole? Because it was a sign that God’s love is greater than any sin. His love is greater than any sin! All we have to do is glance toward God, and let His look of love save us.
At the heart of Christianity is the Cross. It’s in our Churches, in our homes, it’s on Mt. Soledad, and it’s around our neck on a chain. The Cross is a symbol of the great love that God has for us and it reminds us how much He always loves us – how much God desires a relationship with us.
“God so loved you – that He gave His only Son – that you who believe in Him – might not perish, but might have Eternal Life”. In what way does your life reflect how you love God in return?
St. Francis of Assisi was repulsed at the sight of lepers. As a young man, when he would gather with his friends, they would ridicule lepers. But when he was brought to life by God’s love – he embraced lepers; physically embraced lepers. A married couple suffers because they cannot conceive a child, but God’s love for them – leads them to adopt children – to give love to children who might not have the opportunity to live in a loving home. Crosses in life can beget love and life – as the cross of Jesus did. Can you express to the Lord the merciful and life-giving love He has poured into your life even in the midst of your crosses? That’s the difference between the saint and sinner; the saint can do that. As Christ was elevated on the cross – let your love lift up other people. Be intentional – become the love of God in your family, in our faith community, in our country, and in this world.
In the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.