SUNDAY HOMILY FOR THE 4TH SUNDAY OF LENT YEAR B
THEME: GOD LOVES YOU SO MUCH
BY: Fr. Gerald Musa
HOMILY: The irony of love, people say, is that we ignore those who adore us and adore those who ignore us; we hurt those who love us and love those who hurt us. This saying explains our inconsistent relationship with God, family and friends. More often than not we take God’s love for granted and we do the same to those who genuinely love us.
During the season of Lent, biblical passages are specially selected to show a summary of our history of salvation. These passages narrate the history of God’s infinite love and Man’s repeated rebellions. For example, the Book of Chronicles recounts how the people, priests (pastors), and princes of Judah departed from the way of the Lord: “They added infidelity to infidelity, practicing all the abominations of the nations and polluting the temple which he had consecrated in Jerusalem” (Cf. 2 Chronicles 36:14-16).
God disciplined and chastised them for their rebellion and they were taken to an exile that lasted for 70 years in Babylon. 70 years away from one’s homeland must be a long and difficult time, but through God’s mercy they returned to their land to rebuild their temple and their lives.
Like the people of Israel, sometimes, faith communities take the love of God for granted. For example, the Book of Revelation accuses the Church in Ephesus of abandoning her “First love” (Revelation 2:4). The Church in Ephesus ‘fell out of love’ with God their first love and was called to repentance (Revelation 2:5). It was to this same Church that the Letter to the Ephesians was addressed. In this ‘Love Letter,’ the Apostle Paul reminds the Ephesians about this First Love who is rich in mercy, because of his great love. He explains that his love is so much that “Even when we were dead in our transgressions, he brought us to life with Christ” (Ephesians 2:5-6).
When Jesus encountered Nicodemus, he recalled an important event that occurred in the salvation history of the people of Israel. During their journey to the Promised Land, they staged a rebellion by complaining against Moses and against God. Thereafter, fiery snakes chastised them and many of them died.
In making reference to this bronze serpent Jesus said to Nicodemus: “Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him might have eternal life” (John 3:14). According to Cyril of Alexandria, “The serpent signifies bitter and deadly sin, which was devouring the whole race on the earth… biting the Soul of man and infusing it with the venom of wickedness.”
God constantly reaches out to people to save and heal them from deadly diseases and from the venom of wickedness. Evangelist John expresses the love of God in these powerful words: “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” (John 3:16). The death of Jesus on the cross is the ultimate expression of God’s love for the human person and just like the serpent that was set on the standard; the cross becomes a source of healing. The Prophet Isaiah says, “By his wounds, we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5).
It is not enough to know, but to experience and understand how much God loves you. Ronald Rolheiser, a priest of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate is right on point as he says,
God’s love isn’t a reward for being good, doing our duty, resisting temptation, bearing the heat of the day in fidelity, saying our prayers, remaining pure, or offering worship, good and important as these things are. God loves us because God is love and God cannot not love and cannot be discriminating in love.
The Lord wants us to respond to his love with love, but most often we are at a loss at how to respond well to this overwhelming divine love. We must admit that we are still learning how to love and our love is so short and temporal “Like a morning cloud, like the dew that early passes away” (Hosea 6:4).
Let us pray that the Lord will increase our capacity to love him in all things and above all things.
Fourth Sunday of Lent B; 2 Chronicles 36:14-16, 19-23; Ephesians 2:4-10; John 3:14-21