Love is measured by its cost, that is, by how much we are willing to
The fourth Sunday of Lent has a festive character. It comes as a break in the Lenten penitential mood: “Rejoice, Jerusalem! Be glad for her!” exclaims the entrance antiphon. Some of us, many perhaps, will say: What good reason is there for rejoicing? There are a good number of reasons to be sad and to mourn: worldwide terrorism, political bickering, economic crisis, growing unemployment, rising prices of basic commodities, natural calamities, and a long etcetera. Pray tell, what is there to rejoice over?
Today’s gospel gives us a good reason: “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son.” Is that all?– you might say; we know that already; this is the most oft-quoted verse of the bible. Yes, indeed, we know that; we have heard it over and over again. But has it really sunk into our heart and mind? This is the favorite verse of our Protestant brothers. In the introductory pages of the King James Bible (the Protestants’ most revered version of the Bible) it says: This verse (Jn. 3:16) has been translated into more than
1,100 languages. It is here recorded in 27 languages, which are understood by more than three-quarters of the earths population.”
The title of Pope Benedict XVI’s first encyclical letter (2005) is “God is Love,” (Deus caritas est). Its opening words are: “God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him” (1 Jn 4:16). Here we have the shortest, richest, and deepest definition of God: He is love. Therefore, he cannot do anything but to love. All his actions, from creation to redemption, are motivated by love. Again, in Pope Benedict XVI’s words: “Everything has its origin in God s love, everything is shaped by it, everything is directed towards it. Love is God s greatest gift to humanity, it is his promise and our hope.” Now we can more easily understand the words of today’s gospel: “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son.” As someone has said, “you can give without loving, but you cannot love without giving.”
When Johann Gutemberg was printing the first Bible at Mainz in 1456, his little daughter, Alice, picked up a discarded piece of paper with only one line of print: “God loved the world so much that he gave.” She put it in her pocket and kept on thinking about God being so loving. Her face lit up. Her mother notice her changed behaviour and asked Alice what was making her so happy. Alice showed her mother the piece of paper with the printed line. The mother looked at it for a while, then said, “So, what did God give?” “I don’t know,” said the girl, “but if God loves us well enough to give us something, then we need not be afraid of him.” (Remember, those were the years of the Inquisition, when people lived their faith in fear and trembling).
Love is measured by its cost, that is, by how much we are willing to sacrifice. Once a husband asked his wife: “Hon, what gift do you want for our anniversary?” The wife answered, “Anything… so long as there is a diamond on it.” Come anniversary day, the husband gave her a set of playing cards. God gave us the most precious gift he had: His only-begotten Son. He sent him, not just to pay a visit to us that would have been great in itself, but to become one like us in all things but sin, to share in our pains and sufferings, and to die for our sake. Indeed, no greater love is possible.
The gospel goes on: “God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world but to save it.”God condemns no one. Condemnation is self-inflicted– it is our choice: “The light came into the world, but people preferred darkness.” We condemn ourselves when we refuse God’s friendship and love; when we refuse to abide by the teachings of Jesus Christ. When a patient refuses to obey the doctor’s orders or decides to leave the hospital against the doctor’s advice, he is responsible for whatever may happen to him. Same with us whenever we refuse God’s love. God loves us to the point of respecting our free choices, no matter how wrong.
published March 18, 2012, Parish Bulletin