Early in the morning Moses went up Mount Sinai as the Lord had commanded him, taking along the two stone tablets.
Having come down in a cloud, the Lord stood with Moses there and proclaimed his name, "Lord." Thus the Lord passed before him and cried out, "The Lord, the Lord, a merciful and gracious God, slow to anger and rich in kindness and fidelity." Moses at once bowed down to the ground in worship. Then he said, "If I find favor with you, O Lord, do come along in our company. This is indeed a stiff-necked people; yet pardon our wickedness and sins, and receive us as your own."(P) The word of the Lord.
Blessed are you, O Lord, the God of our fathers, praiseworthy and exalted above all forever; and blessed is your holy and glorious name, praiseworthy and exalted above all for all ages. (R)
Blessed are you in the temple of your holy glory, praiseworthy and glorious above all forever. (R)
Blessed are you on the throne of your kingdom, praiseworthy and exalted above all forever. (R)
Blessed are you who look into the depths from your throne upon the cherubim, praiseworthy and exalted above all forever. (R)
Brothers and sisters, rejoice. Mend your ways, encourage one another, agree with one another, live in peace, and the God of love and peace will be with you. Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the holy ones greet you.
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.(P) The word of the Lord.
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.
Whoever believes in him will not be condemned, but whoever does not believe has already been condemned, because he has not believed in the name of only Son of God.(P) The Gospel of the Lord.
There is a story of two strangers sitting next to each other on a plane. As the plane began its ascent, the two men introduced themselves to each other. One man said, "My name is John, and I am a Catholic priest. The other man interrupted him and said, "Oh...! You are a Bible man. I don't go for all that God stuff. It's only meant for children." The priest did not know quite how to respond to this man so he asked him what it was that he did. The man said, "I am an astronomer. I like to study the sun, moon, planets, stars..." The priest cut him off and said, "Oh...! You are an adult who likes to sing only children's songs, like, "Twinkle, twinkle little star..."
Today's gospel serves as a reminder that God is not just for a select few, but for the whole world, John (3:16-18). He offers love to everyone - young and old, rich and poor, weak and strong, righteous and unrighteous, men, women and children. John writes, "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," John (3:16).
We, Christians, believe that God created the "world" and was pleased with it. Here, the "world" refers to humankind as a whole. For His love to be genuine, God also gave the world free will. But the world has become corrupt by sin, and is in constant rebellion against God. And yet, John says, "God loves the world". It is so hard to fathom that the world is trying to disown God, and yet God loves the world so much. Imagine! If God did not love the world - surely it would have already been decimated and not a man, or a woman or a child would be left on this earth. So, the starting point of our faith is to believe that God loves the world. If we accept this premise then it changes everything. It changes the way our Christian religion can be seen. It changes the way we view God. It changes the way we live our faith. It changes the way we worship and honour God. It changes the way we see ourselves, and it changes the way we relate to others.
God loves us, and values us so much that He does not want us to die and be separated from Him. He does not want us to be lost. Hence, on the one hand, He gives us control of our own lives, and on the other gives us the Ten Commandments. He has set rules for us to live by so that we may live a good and happy life. For example, over one thousand four hundred years before Jesus, God told Moses to tell the people of Israel not to defile the land they lived in, in which He, the Lord, also lived among the people, Numbers (35:33-34).
At another time, some six hundred years before Jesus was born, the prophet Jeremiah challenged the people to "amend their ways" if they wished for God to remain with them, Jeremiah (25:5). And at another time about five hundred years before Jesus came, when Jerusalem was captured by Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, the prophet Ezekiel, who had always announced misery and misfortune upon them for their evil and wicked ways, gave words of hope and comfort to the Israelites saying that God did not want them to die but desired that they would turn away from their evil ways and live, Ezekiel (33:11).
But despite repeated warnings from God's prophets to reform their life and turn to God, the people continued to live in sin. So, we see that even though God is disappointed in some of the things that go on in this world, He still loves the world. God does not give up on man, like a parent who is disappointed with their children, might do. He continues to love them. So often, the disappointment comes precisely because the love is deep. God is unchanging because God is love, and He always acts in loving ways. Hence, instead of punishing or destroying the world, God Himself provided a way of escape for sinful humankind.
John writes, "God so loved the world that He gave his only Son", John (3:16a). Yes. After the people had rejected all the messengers God had sent because they did not like the message, God sent His Son as a last resort. God's love for the world is so great that He did not even spare His only begotten Son. John further states that God's purpose of sending His Son into the world is, "so that everyone who believes in Him might not perish but might have eternal life", John (3:16b). Yes. God sent His Son so we might not "perish" but have "eternal life". What is "eternal life"? "Eternal life" traditionally refers to the continuity of life after death. But it also refers to the state of endless happiness or the fullness of life which begins here on earth.
It is not simply about longevity or the duration of life but the quality of life. In other words, regardless of whether we live short lives or long lives, we must live a life of contentment, happiness, freedom and peace, a life which continues even after we die. Eternal life or everlasting life is therefore, as the synonym of a life of the highest quality, the life that God the Father lives, and wants the world to have it too. The promise is that everyone who believes in His Son would be given this eternal life.
What does it mean to "believe in" Jesus? "To believe in Jesus" does not just mean to accept the teachings of Jesus as true but also, we are to trust Him and follow Him, and submit to Him. To believe in Jesus is to trust in His message of salvation, and to act upon that belief. For example, Jesus said that we are to forgive others "seventy times seven" in response to Peter's question as to how many times he should forgive someone who sins against him, and whether it is enough to forgive seven times, Matthew (18:21-22). In other words, we do not just stop with believing that true peace is possible through unlimited forgiveness but also, we should make every effort to forgive everyone who offends us, and everyone who sins against us for an unlimited number of times. This is an act of love. We are to simply accept God's plan or method of salvation, forsaking any others we may have heard of, and firmly hold to God's alone.
God's Son, Jesus, came into the world and demonstrated His love for the world throughout His earthly ministry. He said and did everything out of love for the world. Those who believed in Him, and obeyed Him, experienced miracles and were filled with happiness and peace. But in spite of that, in the end, He was thrown "out of the vineyard and killed", Luke (20:15). There is something more here. God has revealed Himself in Scripture - as one God eternally existing in three Persons - the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit - the mystery we celebrate in today's feast. However, God's greatest revelation of Himself to the world is in His Son, Jesus. Jesus is both God's Son and God Himself - God in human flesh, 1 Timothy (3:16). So, to reject God's final messenger is to reject God Himself.
John continues by telling us, "God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world but that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him will not be condemned, but whoever does not believe has already been condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the Only Son of God", John (3:17-18). Yes. God did not send His Son to condemn anyone but to save everyone. However, God gives us free will to choose between life and death, salvation and condemnation. And the choice is not offered to just a few selected people but to everyone who believes or has faith in Him. So, those who believe in Jesus, God's only son, will have eternal life and will not be condemned. But then, Jesus also warns that those who do not believe stands condemned already. This is where, I believe, a lot of people become confused. Some people, particularly the Christians see themselves as the chosen ones of God and are saved, while everybody else around them is condemned to hell. No, this is not so.
Jesus does not need to come and condemn us for our sin. We have been condemned for our sin long before Jesus was born. We were condemned even before we could ever believe or not believe in Jesus. We are already condemned to die for our sin from the moment Adam and Eve disobeyed God, and when we were conceived by our sinful parents. All of us are subjected to condemnation because we are sinners. However, God does love the world so He sent His Son Jesus to save all of us sinners. Those who choose to believe in God's plan of salvation through Jesus Christ will be saved, and those who choose not to believe in Jesus or remain in a state of unbelief will be subjected to the condemnation of Adam and Eve and will perish.
What is the message for us?
No matter how bad we are, how evil we are, or how sinful we are, God loves us. Even though there is nothing within us to make God love us, yet He loves us. Even in all our wickedness, He loves us - not because we have earned it, but in fact, because we have nothing to offer Him - He simply loves us because He chooses to. And it is only God the Father's love that gives us hope. When we are told by people, particularly, Popes, bishops, priests, preachers, parents, God-parents and elders in our community who exhort us to repent and turn to God, it's not out of spite but love and care for us. It is because like us and John the apostle, they too truly believe in and follow the God who does everything, for our own good.
How should we respond to the love of God? Do we say "no" to God's offer of love and laugh in His face? Or do we say "yes" to God, "yes" to Jesus, and "yes" to the Holy Spirit, and humbly and gratefully accept God's love offered through His Son Jesus Christ? Do we trust Jesus to save us and let Him be the Saviour of our life? It is up to us to decide whether we are on the side of God or on the side of the enemy within us.(P) Amen.
God Bless You!