Engaging the Gospel – Fourth Sunday of Lent

Fourth Sunday of Lent (Year B): Gospel – John 3:14-21

Today’s Gospel features one of the best-known verses in all of Scripture, but precisely because of its familiarity, we can become de-sensitized to its radical power:

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.

In His very Person, Jesus embodies God’s love for His people. He confirms the testimony of the prophets who described the covenant relationship with God in the most intimate terms:

In the course of its history, Israel was able to discover that God had only one reason to reveal Himself to them: His sheer gratuitous love…

His love for His people is stronger than a mother’s for her children. God loves His people more than a bridegroom His beloved; His love will be victorious over even the worst infidelities and will extend to His most precious gift: ‘God so loved the world that He gave His only Son.’

— Catechism paragraphs 218-219.

Precisely because He loves us, God wants to rescue us from our sinful plight, heal our brokenness, and restore us to His friendship: “The Word became flesh for us in order to save us by reconciling us with God” (457).

St. Gregory of Nyssa (d. late 4th century) described just how desperately humanity needs a Redeemer:

Sick, our nature demanded to be healed; fallen, to be raised up; dead, to rise again. We had lost the possession of the good; it was necessary for it to be given back to us. Closed in the darkness, it was necessary to bring us the light; captives, we awaited a Savior; prisoners, help; slaves, a liberator.

— quoted in 457.

Through our baptism, we are regenerated in Christ (1213), and so, “in a certain way, we have already risen with Christ” (1002). We thus begin to experience God’s gift of eternal life, communion with Him, while still here on earth (260, 2796).

Although our salvation originates from this sheer grace of God, we have the free will to accept the divine gift, or to turn away from it. We respond by giving our assent of faith, by striving to live a moral life in accordance with God’s will, by repenting when we fall short, by frequenting the sacraments to strengthen us (1989-2003).

Let us be mindful of the extraordinary gifts God offers us in Christ, and never take his graces lightly (679).

Question for reflection: How have I experienced the love of God?