Sunday Homily- Fr. Luke Uebler- March 14, 2021
“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.” Words from our Gospel today from the 3rd chapter of the Gospel according to St. John – sisters and brothers, may the Lord give to you his peace and his joy.
Listen to this adorable letter to God from a little girl: “Dear God, I bet that it is very hard for you to love all of everybody in the whole world. There are only four people in our family and I can never do it. Sincerely, Harper.” So many times, we judge our Christian way of life and our own worth based upon my own ability to love like God. The problem with that is that, as human beings, we will only be able to love as limited human beings love, which means that despite our best efforts we will inevitably at one point or another fall short of the mark. To err is human. We all make mistakes. No one is perfect. The readings today bear witness to the struggles of humanity to love throughout all of history. The first reading today chronicled how the Israelites, time and time again, ignored God’s messengers the prophets, how they added infidelity to infidelity. We are not much different in our day and age. Despite our progress and our best efforts to move towards the light, as our Gospel today alludes to, we keep finding ourselves getting sucked into the darkness of a divided, malicious, chaotic, overwhelming culture and nation and world. When we evaluate our world’s situation and our own part in it, it is very tempting to give into depression and despair, with thoughts of, “What is this world coming to? … How could God ever love a person like you?” Sometimes we say that to ourselves. The devil prods us with the words, “you’re no good, you’re no good…”
That cross says otherwise. God has not come to condemn but to save. The cross, we said last week, is our greatest symbol. To many, a crucified God is foolish and the cross marks a quite final end to such goodness, but for the Christian disciple, the cross becomes the ultimate symbol of the awesome depth of God’s unconditional, immeasurable, unmerited, overwhelming, reckless love for us. There is nothing that God wouldn’t do, there is no length God wouldn’t go to out of love for us. He would go through hell, into hell and back again for you. There is a story about a pig and a hen who had heard about a church’s program to feed the hungry. The pig and the hen discussed how they could help. The hen said, “I’ve got it! We’ll provide bacon and eggs for the church to feed the hungry.” The pig thought about the suggestion and said, “There’s only one thing wrong with your bacon and eggs idea. For you, it only requires a contribution, but from me, it will mean total commitment!” In life, our love is more like the hen’s. God’s love for us is like the pig’s. The cross proves that God’s love is beyond our own. His love is total.
As much as the readings are a humble reminder of our human limitations to love, how we fall repeatedly into sin, that suffering and darkness and death are a part of human reality, today’s readings also offer to us a message of great hope. We are sinners, true, but we are loved sinners and that changes everything because God in his great love can do immeasurably more for us than we can do for ourselves. To that end, all our readings more importantly focus on the depth of God’s unconditional love for us and how that opens up new possibilities for us beyond our limitations.
Over and against Israel’s obstinance, for example, God continued to reach out to his people to call them back, but even when they relied on their own strength and were thus overcome by their enemies, God didn’t give up on his people, now living in exile. He inspired Cyrus, king of Persia, to restore them by overthrowing the Babylonians who held them captive. Through Cyrus, God ends their misery. God brings them back home. He restores his people. He raises them up out of their darkness. God’s love transforms their situation and their future. Likewise, in our Gospel, it is not just that God simply loved the world. It is that God SO loved the world, that he gave his only son, so that we might not perish but might have eternal life. This is Laetare Sunday, ‘Rejoice’ Sunday. We rejoice in God, who is, as St. Paul says, “rich in mercy: so immeasurable is his gift of grace that He brought us to life with Christ, even when we were dead in our transgressions, because of the great love he has for us.” Though we must accept the consequences of our actions and have to live with our own limitations, God can draw straight with crooked lines. Nothing can separate us from God’s love. Nothing is beyond redemption. In the light of God’s love the cross is no longer an obstacle or foolish, and the crosses we are burdened with are transformed. It’s like Josh Groban’s Song, “You Raise Me Up.” Through the love of God in Jesus, we are raised up to more than we could ever hope to be. That is our great Christian hope. This is what it means to be a disciple, to live in a relationship with God who loves us first and best.
Like the hen, our contributions are good, but they are not total. Left to our own devices we are in trouble. The Christian doesn’t bear witness to their own ability to love. Rather, the Christian bears witness to the total love of God at work in their own lives and in the lives of those around them. I pray that you come to discover how much you are loved by God and come to know for yourself the transformation that God has in store for us all.
“My Dearest Harper, even when you find it hard to love, look at the cross and remember that there is nothing that I wouldn’t do out of love for you or for your family or for anyone in the world. You are worth it. And together we can make it through anything. Love Always, God.”