Dear friends on the journey,
Have you ever been amazed, or even baffled, by the deep love someone has for you? Or received a gift so unexpected that you are mystified by the thoughtfulness and love behind it? Got it in your mind? How did you respond? Did you see that person in a new way? Did their love cause you to act differently, and not by way of reciprocation but because their love just changed you?
Now multiply that love by a gazillion. That is God’s love for you and his gift to you is Jesus, the way of salvation. Today’s gospel is John 3:16, probably the most quoted and known scripture passage of all time. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only son…” God’s love is manifested in gifts to us. At the beginning of salvation history, God gave us the earth and all her creatures and plants to enjoy. Through the chosen people, the Israelites, God called us into a covenantal relationship. Then God’s ultimate gift of Jesus fulfilled the covenant and brings us believers back to God’s self to live a glorious eternal life.
As Christians, our salvation comes through belief that Jesus is our way to eternal life. I have known this intellectually but to be quite honest, it wasn’t until my Fundamental Theology class at the seminary five years ago when I had a profound moment that my heart just suddenly knew it. I truly felt God’s love for ME and knew that Jesus died for ME. When our hearts know it, our natural and only response is to live it by being the best Christian we can be and sharing that reality with other.
Our response is to see the world as God sees it, to see all of God’s creation as good, to love others just like God loves us and be in relationship with one another. It sounds simple but to our human eyes and hearts it can be much more complex. Focusing on the cultures and peoples that please us is much easier but dangerously comforts us. Relating to and loving the others becomes more difficult or impossible.
We are not seeing much love these days. News and social feeds are filled with images of death, hate, destruction, and division. From Covid-19 to acts of racism to looting to earthquakes to our own personal traumas, we are suffering and hurting. We are frustrated and angry. What do we do with all of us this?
I think we take it step by step. First, we care for ourselves. Sit with our thoughts and feelings, taking it to God in prayer then listening. Embody scripture especially today’s gospel and second reading: “mend your ways, encourage one another, agree with one another, live in peace, and the God of love and peace will be with you. Greet one another with a holy kiss.” We remember that we are called to act with love, patience, kindness, humility, compassion, and empathy. We remind ourselves that the God made every human being beautiful and good, in a wide array of color, voices, and smiles among many cultures, foods, dances, and traditions. All life is sacred, and no one should be left behind to be sick, hungry, homeless, devalued, dehumanized, discarded.