Tuesday, April 21, 2009

So Loved

April 22, 2009

Wednesday of the Second Week of Easter

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. John 3:16-17


What we call the beginning is often the end
And to make an end is to make a beginning…
With the drawing of this Love and the voice of this Calling
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
T.S. Eliot


Our daily readings have been so slowly approaching the heart of John’s Gospel for a few days. Monday, we scrapped the surface. Jesus so urged Nicodemus to be born again of the spirit. But Nicodemus was so not able to grasp the meaning. Tuesday, we got under the surface further following the wind blowing where it will and the holy Spirit so guiding us. Today, we get to the nerve center, the vital organ which for so many is summed up on one phrase. John Three Sixteen. God so loved the world…

Jesus' lesson to Nicodemus that dark night 2,000 years ago is this: God loves us. He is waiting for us to turn from evil and love him back. When we do, Jesus will know us and show us the only path to eternal life.

“So” is a pretty common adverb that indicates comparative degree. Using it signals the reader that the action word (love in our case) is being expressed to a great degree. God loved the world so very, very, very extremely much.

The use of “so” is discouraged in college grammar books but is nonetheless standard in daily language and is at the very essence of this passage. God does not merely love his children in the world. God does not love his children in the world a whole lot. God does not love his children in the world “this much” – imagine the pair of my 36-inch sleeves reaching out in both directions.

So loved. The quantity, quality and depth of God’s love for us is so extensive that God most decidedly loves the world to such a degree that the only way he could prove to us how much He loved us was to give us his one and only son.

So loved. Remember how you felt when you were separated from the one you so loved most. Maybe your girlfriend (or boyfriend) was working overseas or stationed abroad in the military. You can not be with them and live with them your daily experiences. Sure you can write or call and tell them about your day but that is not the same as being there. Do you have a college student studying in a far off city? Do you have an adult child working in another country? Do you have an elderly parent in a nursing home hundreds of miles away? Separation is not easy to endure.

So loved. God did not only endure the separation from one he loved. He endured the ultimate separation – the death of one he loved. Not just any death like a car accident or disease. He endured watching his son undergo a humiliating and painful public trial, torture and execution by the state.

So loved. Another dimension of this redemptive love is that the death was not just for people he loved but for people who did not love Him back.

The love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the holy Spirit that has been given to us. For Christ, while we were still helpless, yet died at the appointed time for the ungodly. Indeed, only with difficulty does one die for a just person, though perhaps for a good person one might even find courage to die. But God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us. Romans 5:5-8

“So loved.” God proved his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. All that deeper dimension is communicated to us through those two little words. “So loved.”

How much did God love? So much that He gave His only begotten Son. So much that He emptied Himself; He gave Himself. So much that the amount of His love is indicated by the scale of the gift. Like the prodigal father heaping a share of his fortune on the one son who wants to run away. Like the prodigal father waiting and waiting – patiently – for the return of the son who was lost. Like the prodigal father who also heaped his love on the son who resented the return of his brother. He so loved them both. Just like God so loves us sinners.


Invite some of the new men from the 119th Cursillo to your next group reunion or parish ultreya. Keep the light and the love burning in their hearts.

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