Our liturgical calendar’s period of the Ordinary Time following the Easter Season is launched within the context of the mystery of the Triune God. Our salvation rests on the love of the Father expressed in and through the Son. The gospel narration (John 3:16-18) invites us to listen in at the personal reflections of the evangelist after the conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus.
The greatest love story
Martin Luther called this verse: “God so loved the world that He gave His only Son” as gospel in miniature. This was the greatest love story ever. In so few words the incredible dimensions of God’s love are revealed, the very heart of the good news of the salvation of the world. The Transcendent became intimate with us creatures because the Transcendent loves us. God’s omnipotence is at the service of His divine love. In this inconceivable divine outpouring, God desired the redemption of the world.
It is love immeasurable and unmerited, the hallmark of God’s dealing with us humankind. Love can be the only reason for any of God’s choice, as when God elected Israel: “If God set His heart on you, and chose you, it was not because you outnumbered other peoples; you were the least of all peoples! It was for the love of you!” (Deuteronomy 7:7-8). The Johannine community behind the Fourth Gospel refers to this love of God some 37 times and would conclude that God is love
(1 John 4:16).
The only Son given up
TO realize His loving design for us, God “gave His only Son.” His Son is the measure of the Father’s love, THE revelation of the divine love. Not just offered as a gift as at the incarnation, but delivered as a sacrifice on the cross. Thus the New Testament often speaks of the fact that Jesus, “given up” for our salvation, is the supreme manifestation of divine love for us (John 13:1; 15:13; Romans 5:8-9; 8:32). As often as we celebrate the remembrance of the Son made flesh, the words of the institution of the Eucharist ring out: “This is my body which will be given up for you” (Luke 22:19; 1 Corinthians 11:24). Truly, “no one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13).
This inestimable love of God and of His only Son was foreshadowed, as seen by the Christian tradition very early on, in the narrative of Abraham and his only son whom he loved, Isaac (Genesis 22:1-18). Abraham was willing to give up his only son to death, and his obedient faith was to the benefit of all the nations of the Earth, just as the Father’s giving up of His only Son is for the whole world. In this prefiguration of the drama of our salvation, it is essential to see that what God wanted was not the suffering of Isaac or of Abraham but their love, a proof of love by both of them in obedience. When John unveils on the cross the divine love of Jesus, he focuses on the open side of Jesus to invite us to go beyond the visible sufferings and reach to the “heart” of our redemption, God’s love incarnate (John 19:33-37).
Alálaong bagá, God “gave His only Son” and the Son gave up his life for us, so “that the world might be saved through him.” The loving obedience of Jesus to the Father reversed the meaning of death as the consequence of sin; in his divine love, death becomes the Passover to eternal life. God did not send His Son to condemn the world, but so that “everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life”—everyone who is willing to take up his own cross and follow Jesus on the path of love. The love of God incarnate in Jesus Christ presents to us an invitation and a challenge, and our response to it can result eternally in life or in death. Love can thus provoke self-judgment as we go for it or against it; God does not condemn us, rather we do that to ourselves when we refuse divine love. Welcoming or rejecting love means entering or withdrawing from life. And to imitate Jesus in His way of love demands faith, trust in the love of God in and through Jesus.
Join me in meditating on the Word of God every Sunday, from 5 to 6 a.m. on DWIZ 882, or by audio streaming on www.dwiz882.com.