While I was growing up I remember my father constantly telling me not to do something because it was dangerous. What I cannot believe is how many times I ignored his warnings and did those things anyway. But isn’t one of the axioms of life the belief that experience is the best teacher. After each of my misadventures I came away saying to myself “I should have listened” because the danger was truly far greater than the life lessons I learned.
In the scriptures God is constantly revealing spiritual truths so we can grow in holiness and live as disciples. Like my father God gave us those spiritual truths so we can avoid the danger of doing it on our own. Today’s readings are full of those life lessons. We should go back are read and re-read today’s passages from Paul and John. Before you read them invite the Holy Spirit to aid you in order to have them penetrate your minds, hearts and souls.
The words we heard today should make us sit up and ask ourselves how we are approaching this entire concept of salvation. Do we really believe that “…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.” Or are we willing to ignore what our Father is telling us and go off on our own and show him just how good we can do it by ourselves.
Our church teaches us that scriptures are the unerring word of God. We know God says what he means and means what he says. God’s only desire is for us to know him and to love him as deeply as he loves us – then live our life centered on him daily. In order to show the depth of his love he sent Jesus to earth to take upon himself the punishment we deserve for our sinfulness. I believe that we do accept that Christ died for our sins. I do believe that all of us accept the fact that salvation comes from Christ and Christ alone; that statement does form the basis of our Catholic teaching. But just knowing it often times falls in the category of “everyone knows that.” To which God responds but did you know that you are rejecting the gift of salvation each time you try to show me how much you deserve it.
God just weeks ago in the scriptures told us “this is my beloved son, listen to him.” Today through Paul we are told that “whoever believes in Jesus will not be condemned.” So if we are not condemned why do we continue to live trying to make up or cover up our sinful nature? God said if we believe we will have eternal life. But we ignore that spiritual truth and live with the memory of past sins condemning us for falling short. We believe but we act as if belief is not enough so we try to do good things to make up for our shortcomings.
By grace you have been saved Paul tells us, so again I ask is belief enough or do we need to do more. Can we not just accept the gift of grace and if we do where does good works fit in? God again answers us through Paul, “by grace you have been saved through faith and this is not from you; it is the gift of God; it is not from works, so no one may boast.” Therein lies the problem with our good works; they puff us up so we become righteous and then we rely more on our righteousness and less on grace. Salvation is pure gift, unearned and unmerited.
This concept of grace lies at the heart of so many of Jesus’ parables. It lies at the heart of the story of the workers in the vineyard who only worked one hour but got a full day’s pay. Those who worked a full day grumbled it was unfair. Grace lies at the heart of the prodigal son story. He deserved death but was restored to life; much to the dismay of the older brother who worked hard for the father. Grace lies at the heart of the woman caught in adultery that Jesus does not condemn nor ask for her to do penance for her sins. Grace lies at the heart of the unjust steward who was forgiven his enormous unpayable debt. Relieved of the threat of his debt he ignores the pleas for mercy by one who owed him a paltry amount. . We too like the servant ignore the grace offered to us and forget that we are to do unto others. It is no wonder that our good works fail to gain us anything for God knows the intentions of our hearts. Even knowing our hearts, God will still be there to offer us Grace. What he did for us trumps all our feeble efforts to have him like us through good works.
The question remains for us – how much do we believe in this most famous passage. “God so loved the world that he sent his only son.” Do we believe this – of course we do. But here is the key thing God desires us to know and embrace why Jesus came – “those who believe in him might not perish but have eternal life.” Do we believe that eternal life is ours and if so why aren’t we living boldly proclaiming this gospel to all. We should be like the person wearing that 3:16 tee shirt and not hiding our belief in Christ from anyone. We should boldly wear our crucifixes visible for all to see; we should carry our bibles and read them unashamed of the gospel. We should openly praise God when good things happen. We should not have any doubts that God is always with us even in the midst of great tribulation. We should not be like Nicodemus who was a “secret disciple” or hide in the shadows as Peter did on that night Jesus was arrested. We are people of the light so let our light shine and let us proclaim for all to see in hear that Jesus Christ is Lord to the Glory of God the Father.