John chapter 3 verse 16: " For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not parish but might have eternal life." We see John 3:16 on signs at sporting events. This is probably the most quoted verse in the bible. It is the gospel summarized in one verse.
Our God is a loving God. He loves each of us so much that he gave his only son to suffer and die for us. As Christians, we rejoice in the knowledge that our God yearns for us to be with him in heaven eternally.
As we look around our church, we see examples of how much our God loves us. We see fourteen stations which show Christ's journey to the cross for us. We see in the stained glass windows different events, mostly from Christ's life, which show his love for us. We see in the statues examples of holy men and women who were filled with Christ's love. And, first and foremost, we see the tabernacle containing Jesus body, blood, soul, and divinity in the Eucharist.
He loves us. No matter what we have done to hurt him or others, he still loves us. It is the very foundation of our faith. John 3:16. Shout that verse from the rooftop or take a sign to a sporting event to proclaim your faith to others.
The history of salvation, from the fall of Adam and Eve until the final judgment, revolves around the coming of Jesus Christ, the Savior, the Son of God. He came because he loved the world so much. He simply couldn't bear to see us perish in our sins; he longed to share with us his everlasting life.
God cares. And Jesus Christ is the definitive proof that he cares. He cares so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not be lost but may have eternal life. No hidden agenda, no selfish undertones- pure love. This is the heart of God.
Many in our world today don't view God as a loving God. Some aren't even sure that there is a God. Others think that God isn't involved and just watches the messes that we get ourselves into for his amusement. Still others believe that God is not loving but purely a judge.
What is your view of God and how does that affect your life? Do you fear God? Do you believe that Jesus suffered and died out of love for us? Do you wonder why a loving God permits suffering?
Jesus didn't have to suffer and die on the cross for us. He chose the cross out of love for us. We also have choices in our lives regarding our crosses. We can embrace them or abandon them. We can carry our crosses on our journey towards eternal life or can try to take the easy way out.
Our crosses come in different shapes and sizes. We may have a difficult relationship that we are struggling with. We can work on that relationship and choose to love that person or abandon him or her. We may be considering having another child. We can choose the sacrifice that this child will involve or can decide to buy the new car that we have always wanted. We can offer up the day-to-day suffering that we have because of some illness or can constantly complain about it.
Many years ago at a Cursillo retreat, the Holy Spirit gave me the words: "I didn't say it was going to be easy." These weren't the words that I wanted to hear. I would have preferred to hear: "Your life will be a bed of roses." But, these were the words that I needed to hear then and that all of us need to hear occasionally. The crosses that we carry are a gift from God to help us on our journey to heaven. Embrace them. Rejoice in them. For they are our key to eternal happiness.
Our crosses, our suffering, reflects the love that Christ has for us. That concept is difficult for many to understand today. Our society wants to eliminate all suffering. And the more that it tries to eliminate suffering, the more suffering is inflicted upon us. When we run away from our problems rather than face them, we often create more problems for ourselves and for others around us.
Today is Laetare Sunday, the fourth Sunday of Lent. It is a day of celebration, a day of rejoicing as we take a break from the penitential season. Today, let us rejoice, let us celebrate even in our crosses. For our God is a loving God who loves each one of us more than we can even imagine.