March 10
God So Loved the World

2 Chronicles 36. 14 – 17a, 19 – 23
Psalm 137
Ephesians 2. 4 – 10
John 3. 14 – 21

We are half way through March and already there is light in the evenings beyond six o’clock. We have longer daylight to look forward to, especially when the clock goes forward this weekend. With the increase in light, there is also an increase in growth. The first blossoms of spring have already come out. Nature is coming to life after a time of hibernation. Today’s gospel echoes what is happening in nature, for ‘light has come into the world.’ The light refers to God’s revelation brought into the world by Jesus. Both St Paul and the gospel declare that God’s light is the light of love. For Paul, God “made us alive together with Christ”. The central gospel truth is that God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son. In the light of Jesus we find mercy, compassion, great love, kindness, infinite grace. There is a certain kind of light that can expose us mercilessly, like the light of the interrogator’s lamp. But Jesus brings a light that need hold no fear for us; it is a divine light that lifts us up, just as the Son of Man was lifted up, to save our human race. Here is a light that assures us of our worth and that helps us to see the good we are capable of doing. It is a light that helps us see that ‘we are God’s work of art, created in Christ Jesus to live a good life.’ We long for a light that is strong and enduring, a light that is more resilient than all the darkness in this world. We may struggle from time to time with the darkness of illness or depression, with a sense that we are worthless and that life is not worth living. That darkness of spirit finds expression in today’s Psalm, composed during the exile in Babylon. ‘By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat and wept, remembering Zion.’ Our Scriptures for today affirm that in whatever darkness we encounter, the light of God’s enduring love is greater, so that we may have life and have it to the full. As Jesus said, ‘God gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.’

Grace – what is it? The doctrine of Grace is one of the fundamental principles of Christianity, and it distinguishes the Christian faith from every other religion in the world. And so Christianity cannot be understood apart from an adequate grasp of grace. Rightly understood and applied, the doctrine of grace can revolutionize our life.

Grace is God showing His love to you even though you don’t deserve it. How can we explain grace?

First of all Grace is part of the character of God. Forgiveness, compassion, love, generosity, sacrifice and kindness are all of God’s grace, and it is poured out upon all people regardless of their spiritual condition. Grace is God’s unmerited favour, undeserved by a person and it is absolutely free! Therefore our efforts to contribute to God’s saving grace are an affront to Him.

Today’s second reading, especially of its opening sentence God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which He has loved us, even when we were dead through our sins, made us alive together with Christ.

Grace is entirely the work of God and it is neither prompted nor merited by a person. We do not have to earn it, indeed we cannot earn it. This truth is not easy to believe because we have come to doubt that anything can really be free any more. An advertisement tells us that we will get a free pizza, but the small print informs us that we have to buy a large pizza first.

Grace operates on a totally different basis. Grace does not give people what they deserve, but what God delights to give, in spite of their sin. Thus God’s grace has angered even the prophets.

Grace’ ultimate example is seen on the Cross, where Jesus sacrificed his life for his love for human beings. It is like the gift of blood in the following story. A man lay on the donor’s cot at a Red Cross blood donation centre, a pint of life flowing from his arm into the plastic pouch. Out the window he could see the 6 storey hospital where someone lay in desperate need of his type of blood. The two of them would never meet. The gift the man was giving was exactly that – something not possible to repay and with inestimable value.

Jesus’ death was God’s great gift to us, sealed in his blood, not to be repaid, not for sale nor to be merited in any way. How great the gift of life! How great for us who have received it!

In his letter to the Ephesians (2:8-10) St. Paul says, “It is by grace you have been Saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God. This is not the result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life”.

It really seems that people can live for years without realizing what is most true of ourselves. We can go on living day after day without wanting to see what is it that really motivates us and spurs our decisions. It’s not stupidity or lack of intelligence, but as Jesus said: “Whoever does wrong hates the light and avoids it, to prevent their actions from being shown up.” We’re afraid to seeing ourselves just as we are. We don’t want too much light to penetrate our life. We prefer to continue blindly, unwilling to change. There are times when, though blind, we believe we see everything clearly. It seems easier to live without ever asking: “Who am I?”. We assume that reality is just as I see it, without being aware that the outer world I perceive is for the most part a reflection of my inner attitudes and the desires that I foster. I may be relating not to real people, but to the image or labels that I’ve fabricated for myself of them. That is what Hermann Hesse understood in his small book My Credo: “The man that I contemplate with fear, hope, greed, propositions, demands, isn’t a man, he’s only a cloudy reflection of my will”. When we want to transform our lives by directing our steps in more noble paths, what’s most decisive isn’t our effort to change. First we must open our eyes, asking what it is that drives us, becoming more aware of the interests that move our existence, discovering the basic motives of our daily living. Why not take a moment to face this question: Why do I flee myself and God so much? Why would I prefer living without seeking the light? We need to listen to Jesus’ words: “Everybody who does the truth comes out into the light, so that what he is doing may plainly appear as done in God”.
God so loved the world that He gave His only Son. The Son stooped down to our sinful state and elevated us to be God’s children. Infusing into us His own Spirit, the Spirit of love. Love will suffer with the beloved. To what extent will love continue to correct, to suffer? As long as love is love and as crucible of pain and patience. And it is in such moments that the quality of love is particularly tested. Love is thus made durable and precious by the qualities of patience and mercy. There may be very few or no ‘rational reasons’ to justify one’s actions and attitudes in persevering love. But surely there are reasons of the heart. These reasons will appear as irrational, and persevering, patient love will be labeled as mad, insane.

In Jesus, and especially in the suffering and death of Jesus, we get a glimpse of the extent and depth of God’s love. And so our fate depends on our attitude towards Jesus who did not come to condemn but to save. If we adopt negative and critical attitudes towards Jesus, it is we who condemn ourselves.

Jesus is the light of the world. And if we turn our backs on Him, we are the losers. Our ancestors preferred darkness to light. In the past we too have done the same. But the most important point is: What is our present attitude?

Love cures people: both the ones who give it and the ones who receive it. – Karl Menninger

God bless!