For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son

03-11-2018Weekly ReflectionFr. Chauncey Winkler

Dear Parish Family,

When Jesus was born in Bethlehem, he was loving Mary, Joseph, the Shepherds and us. When Jesus called his disciples to a new life, he was loving them. When Jesus asked his disciples, "How long must I remain with you of little faith?" he was loving them. When Jesus spoke harshly to the Pharisees to challenge them, he was loving them. When Jesus said, "Blessed are you poor" he was loving them. When Jesus made a whip to overturn the tables of the moneychangers and drive them out of the temple, he was loving both his Father and the moneychangers. When Jesus stood before Pontius Pilot he was loving him.

When Jesus said to Peter, "the devil has asked to sift you like wheat" so I told him "yes" and then I prayed for you, Jesus was loving Peter. When Jesus carried his cross he carried it for all those who put it on him, all those who came to watch and all those who weren't interested. He was loving them. When Jesus appeared to his apostles after he rose from the dead he was loving them. When Jesus ascended into heaven while his apostles stood and watched he was loving them. When Jesus knocked Saul of Tarsus to the ground, asked "why are you persecuting me?" and then left him temporarily blind, he was loving him.

It's not that Jesus, had warm fuzzy feelings about people, made their lives easy or gave them what they wanted; obviously not. But, Jesus always, always, always acted for their good, for their freedom, for their salvation, for their restoration. He always loved them. Jesus' love for his critics and enemies as well as his friends, the crowds that followed him and all of us is more than we would be able to imagine. Except that he reveals his love to us so many times.

Today, we hear Jesus tell Nicodemus, "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. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him."

This love of God for each one of us arrives in the person of Jesus of Nazareth in Galilee. Because Jesus came, we can see and experience the love of God on full display. Because Jesus came, we are also confronted with a choice concerning the love of God. Will we consent to his love with our whole life? Or, will we keep looking to someone else or somewhere else for a different love that we think will give us what we think we want?

Jesus speaks of this inescapable choice to Nicodemus when he says, "Whoever believes in him will not be condemned, but whoever does not believe has already been condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. To "believe in" is to place our lives within his love. "In" is the new location for our life, so that our own life is now "within" the life of Jesus the Christ."

Reading this we might ask, "Why would we choose anything else?" Jesus tells Nicodemus, "people preferred darkness to light because their works were evil." Darkness and evil sounds like a lousy choice. "Who would choose that?" we ask. But the reality is that we choose it every time we say "not now" or "not yet" to Jesus and entrust our happiness to anyone or anything else. Sometimes other things start to look pretty good to us, so we look to romantic relationships, social causes, technology, politics or sports, careers or honor, wealth or comfort, various forms of self reliance to save us from unhappiness. We don't have time to follow Jesus right now, we are too busy with these things. These things are not bad in themselves, but they lead us into darkness when they pull us away from Jesus, whose very presence calls us to choose whom we will love with our time and attention.

No one is condemned by Jesus or the Father, but it is possible for us to condemn ourselves. The trouble with darkness is that we start to get used to it and the light seems too harsh. But the call of Jesus to repent and believe in him is simply Jesus loving us more than we can imagine. God so loved you that he gave his only Son, so that if you believe in him, you will not perish, but have eternal life. Let us help one another to turn to him.