4th Sunday of Lent
“God so loved the world that he gave his only Son…”
If you watch American games – basketball, baseball, football – you can see people holding up a sign: John 3:16. I think it is good that people hold that sign – that some have it printed on their shirts, that some have stickers of it pasted on their cars – because in many ways that the whole Gospel, is the whole Christian tradition in miniature. Christianity does not proclaim just any other good news; it does not announce, primarily, our virtue; it does not enshrine our good deeds and good works; it does not celebrate our goodness and holiness it does not sing our songs and praises; it does not exult in human civilization and achievement. What it does is announce this message: “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son…”
Every teaching and proclamation of the Church, every celebration and commemoration, every basilica and cathedral, every liturgy and rite, every prayer and song, every poem and drama, that life of every saint – that is what they are all about: “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son…”
This must be very clear to us: John 3:16 is not a vague statement on love. It is not just a general feeling of goodwill for what we call “the world.” No, that love of God which prompted the coming of God the Son to become one of us is unconditional, and it is a personal love for each one of us. The sending of his Son is to each of us – personally and individually. God so loved each of us that he gave his only Son to each of us. Our lives must be rooted in the truth of God’s love.
The highest peak of human happiness and joy is connected to love. The deepest desire of the human heart is connected to love. The greatest human fears are about love. The most painful human experiences have to do with love. The unceasing longing of every human being has to do with love. Everyone talks about love, and everyone worries about the vulnerability of love. No one has ever had to teach a child to want to be loved or cry when he or she feels unloved. There is no emotion, no experience, and no quest more authentically human than love.
There are two questions that every human being has asked – regardless of age, background, race, geography, history, economic standing, social status: Will someone love me? Once they get to know me, will they still love me? Paul David Tripp, in his book 40 Days of Love, says, “None of us walk a smooth, straight, and sunny pathway of love.” “Familial love fails all of us in some way.” “Marital love, with all of its romantic hopes and dreams, never quite fulfills our expectations.” “Friendship love never fully delivers what we wish.” “Online media love is a digital fabrication.” When it comes to love, we spend much of our lives disappointed. Again and again, we are disappointed with love, and we repeatedly disappoint people who look to us for love. The point is that, in this fallen world, the kind of love that we long for is fleeting, elusive, and often disappointing. (Paul David Tripp)
“God so loved the world that he gave his only Son…” What we have is a love that will never forsake us…. A love that will never fail in any of its commitments to us… A love that is sacrificial and generous all the time… A love that is so strong that nothing can break it… A love that is faithful and true, no matter what… A love that is unbreakable, even when we are unloving and undeserving. You will never find this love in your spouse, children, parents, friends, neighbors, social media followers. There is only one place to find this peace-producing, joy-fulfilling, and heart-resting love: God.
What every human heart longs for is the love of God. Only his sacrificial, self-giving, patient, accepting, forgiving, and extravagant love will ever satisfy the longing of our hearts. Only God’s love can bring us the rest and restoration, the security and refuge, the hope and courage we need which then ignites our desire and ability to love others. And when we are truly open to the realization of God’s love for us, we want to be living signs of his love in the lives of others – we want to be visible representatives of his goodness and kindness, of his generosity and magnanimity, of his mercy and compassion, of his forgiveness and healing, of his faithfulness and devotion.
It is very important to stop once in a while and spend time dwelling and reflecting on the glorious beauty of God’s love. Lent is an opportune time to do just that. “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son…”