Dear friends on the journey,
Think back to your childhood. What was your image of God when you were a kid? Now go to your teen or college years. What was your image or impression of God then? Was it any different from your early childhood? What did God mean for you at that time?
What’s your image of God today, as an adult? Has it evolved from your early years? Or is it the same? Is your grownup image a God one of judgement and harshness? Or is yours a loving God? I really hope this is the case and if not, if you feel only judgment from God, I encourage you to stop and reflect on why that is your image of God. Where does that come from? How can your image of God transition to one only of love and generosity?
Today’s gospel is an excellent place to start. It includes probably the most referenced scripture passage of all time, John 3:16 which says: For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. The passage goes on to say that Jesus was sent not to condemn the world but to save the world and he does this by death on the cross. He is the truth and the light. This is good news. No, this is fantastic news!
My image of God has certainly evolved over the course of my life and through my ever-deepening relationship with God. Sometimes I have this image of God like a parent who, when her child or teen does something stupid, just lowers her head and shakes it in disbelief. God must have done that with the Israelites, as we read in the first reading.
I’m sure he did that with the apostles and the early Christians and no doubt with us now. But then I picture God chuckling and wrapping his arms around us, knowing our imperfections and offering forgiveness anyway. Jesus did that for us. His crucifixion offers us the way to salvation and not just a few but all of us. We don’t need to earn it; we just need to respond. Our acceptance of this free gift is choosing to believe that, despite our imperfections, brokenness, occasional wrong decisions, God’s love is unconditional. We don’t have to wait to be perfect, happy, mature, rich, smart or have our stuff together in order to be in relationship with God. He wants us here and now so he can wrap his arms around us in forgiveness, comfort and love.
Most often we talk about God’s love for us collectively. To be quite honest, only in the last couple of years did I have a true personal realization that Jesus died for me. I hope you believe this about yourself too: he died for you. Look at the gospel again and read it to yourself:
For God so loved me that he gave his only Son, so that I will believe and not perish and have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn me, but that I might be saved through him.
If we believe this and accept God’s gift of salvation through Jesus, then we have to come out of the darkness and live in the light. As we come towards the end of Lent and prepare for Holy Week, let us all examine our image of God, our personal relationship with God, and our own dark areas. What is the Good Friday of our lives that needs God’s light and love? It’s there for each and everyone of us. Don’t wait.
Faith Life Minister