Today’s reading is from the Gospel according to St. John 3:13-17
Today we focus on this reading from St. John’s gospel as we are anticipating the Feast of the Cross which we will celebrate next week if God wills. This feast actually celebrates the recapturing of the true cross from the Persians in the 7th century ad.
If we look at those events as outsiders we might say to ourselves, this seems to be very odd behavior for people to exhibit towards two pieces of wood nailed together. Very odd behavior towards a cruel instrument of death. Our modern day equivalent might be the veneration of an electric chair. But we as Christians see more than mere pieces of wood. We see the cross of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
You see the feast of the cross is not just a celebration of a historical event….far from it. It is a reminder of the events of Great and Holy Friday, and of the true meaning of the Gospel.
In Verse 17 we are told by Our Lord that “God did not send his son into the world to condemn the world.” Now We might ask ourselves “why did John find it necessary to write that?” It seems clear that he wrote this to remind people that God did not seek to condemn or judge people harshly. NO that was not the point of all the passionate preaching, and teaching. St. John is reminding the readers that even when Christ is speaking harshly to some, He does not do so out of malice, or hatred. He has an even better reason than hatred………….He has love !
How does God show his love for his people? How does He respond when He sees them sinning and hurting themselves? We might as well ask the question “how do parents show their love for their children especially when the children are hurting themselves, or putting their lives in danger? If little Timmy runs across the street without looking both ways what should the parent do? Should they kiss him and give him ice cream and praise him for being so smart?
We all know the answer intrinsically……..but when it comes to God, we are not nearly as understanding. We sometimes see God as the great old man in the sky who likes to make sure we don’t have fun, the one who points his finger at us when we disobey. But this is not the God that I know. Not at all. The God that I know is the God who loves! The God who chastises and corrects and brings his children into line not for His sake, but for theirs.
It is sad to say that even the word “love” has been perverted in today’s understanding. Love is not the chemical reaction one has to an attractive member of the opposite sex. That is called Lust. Love is not the “tolerance” that we display when we see others doing wrong and don’t correct them. That is called cowardice. Love is none of these. So what is real love? Real love is sacrifice. That is why God is love…..not because he showers us with warm kisses, but because he sprinkled us with his own blood. And that is the meaning of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
It is all summed up well in verse 16, the most often quoted but under appreciated verse in the Bible. We see it on t-shirts and at football games but most of us don’t really get it. “For God so loved the world……”
God did not send his Son to condemn us or to allow us to perish………far from it. God sacrificed, God gave His only son to suffer and die, to save us; Not because we deserved it, not because we are beautiful, not because we are great people……He sacrificed because He wanted to. When all the other religious leaders of the world lied to their people, took advantage of them, and profited from them, only ONE stood up to die for his people. And by His death alone we have been made worthy of life.
That is the meaning of love…………that is the meaning of the Cross of Jesus Christ. And glory be to God Forever AMEN.