It is one of the most well-known and popular verses in all of the New Testament. Fans hold up signs with this verse on posters during sporting events. Athletes write it on their uniforms.
It is from the gospel of John chapter 3 verse 16:
For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that whoever
should believe in Him may have eternal life.
Because this verse is so well known, its power and meaning can sometimes be lost on us. So let us listen to it again - God loved you and me so much that He gave His Son to save us. God saw how lost we were and what danger we were in because of our sin. He loved us so much that He refused to leave us in such a state. To rescue us, He sent not only prophets and other people of faith, but He sent His Son. And He sent Him not only to teach us, but ultimately to suffer a cruel death for us. He loved us so much that He did not spare His only Son to save us. It is an awesome thought that the God who created the universe with all its wonders would care so much about you and me who have so often gone astray and betrayed Him. Yet God shows how great His love for us is through Christ Jesus our Lord.
It is important for us to understand exactly what we mean when we say that Jesus is the Son of God. He is not simply a good man who obeyed God and helped others. He is not merely a powerful prophet and wonder-worker. When we call Jesus, “Son of God”, we are saying that He is God. That is what we mean when in the creed we say that Jesus is “consubstantial” with the Father. We are saying that He shares the same nature with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Like them, He existed from all eternity. Along with the Father and the Holy Spirit, He created the world. Whatever we can say about God, we can also say about Jesus.
That is why God the Father proclaims in today’s gospel account of the Transfiguration, “This is my Beloved Son. Listen to Him.” When Jesus speaks, it is God Himself speaking. When Jesus heals, it is God Himself healing. And to bring it up to our day, when we receive the Body of Christ in Communion, we are receiving God Himself.
Therefore, when God gives us His only Son to save us, He is giving Himself. He is giving all that He has to give. He has nothing else left to give us.
In today’s second reading, Saint Paul explains the implications of this beautiful truth for our lives. If God’s love for us is so great, what else will He not do for us? If He would give His Son for us, then can we not trust Him to provide for all our other needs as well? What can be lacking to us when God has already given Himself to us? What do we have to fear when God has already saved us?
Brothers and sisters, it is important for us to reflect on this great truth every day of our lives but especially as we begin this Lenten season. If the love of God can really sink into our hearts, minds and souls then everything else will fall into place. We will live with profound joy knowing that we are surrounded by the presence of God. We will live with abiding confidence knowing that God will see us through whatever may befall us. We will also show loving concern to those we meet as we realize that God also has loved them. Just as Jesus was transfigured before Peter, James and John, so we will be transformed as our knowledge of God’s love penetrates us. Our whole lives will exude and radiate peace. How many lives could we touch and change if we entrusted ourselves totally to His love?
It is important to keep this in mind as we practice our Lenten sacrifices. We do not perform them to punish ourselves or to prove how strong-willed we are. Rather, they are a response to how much God has sacrificed for us. If He could give His only Son up for us, what should we be able to give up to show our love for Him? Like Abraham, we show our devotion to God by being willing to give up everything and anything to serve Him. And by practicing small acts of penance and charity, we will be ready to answer His call and willing to obey.
We gather here once again to celebrate all that God has done for us in Jesus Christ. We come to listen to Him as our Heavenly Father commanded. We come to receive the Body He gave for us on the cross and the Blood He spilled as an offering for our sins. In His love we discover the real meaning of our existence and find the power to live as He commands. We now must go from here to bring that love into a world that is torn by hate and violence. So many in our world do not know that there is a better way. The only way they can ever learn is if we really live the message of love we have received and carry it from this place into our neighborhoods and marketplaces. Then we will see a real transformation brought about by love.