Homily – March 11, 2018

The core teaching in the scripture reading for today is found in the awesome words of Jesus to his new found friend Nicodemus; ‘ God did not send his son into the world to condemn the world , but in order that the world might be saved through him.’ St. Paul echoes this wonder when he reminds us; ‘by grace, by a gift, you have been saved through faith and this is not your doing, it is a gift of God.

Through the life giving passion, death and resurrection of Jesus each of us becomes and intimate friend of God – it is a gift. We don’t earn that friendship we are invited into it. The frightening part about all this is, we can say yes or no to God’s invitation. God can’t stop loving us, it’s God very nature to do so but we have the freedom to ignore or reject that love and end up losers.

I have a nephew who years ago when he was in grade three had a bad cold and had to stay home from school. He was bored and frustrated and became quite cranky. He was driving his mother crazy. Out of her own frustration she said to him, ‘Peter if you don’t behave yourself God is not going to love you anymore.’ Peter looked at her and said ‘who needs him’? His mother was on the phone with me convinced she’s raising an atheist. Here he is in a Catholic school and he’s asking ‘who needs God.’?

I didn’t help matters by telling her, ‘Mary, Peter is a better theologian that you’ll ever be.’ Who needs him? Who needs a moody, spiteful God carrying a big stick ready to get us when we get out of line? At that she went ballistic.

God sent his son into the world not to get us but to embrace us. Christ’s nail pierced hands hold us fast in an embrace of love. Unfortunately we have the ability to squirm out of that embrace and go our own way.

There was a little book out years ago titled, ‘Your God is too small’. From hearing such nonsense as, if you don’t behave yourself God is not going to love or God will punish you, or God is watching you, which makes God a spy satellite in the sky.

And we make God as small and stingy and spiteful as we sometimes are. Worse still is when we tell ourselves that God has had enough of us as we fail time and again to get our acts together. Such messages, such thoughts really distort how we imagine God’s relationship with us and our relationship with God.

God sent his son to us, as one of us, not to condemn us but to be in a loving, life giving friendship with each of as we struggle to live Christ’s great commandment, ‘love one another as I have love you’ As we continue to celebrate our Mass Christ invites us to take and eat, receive his body, our bread of nourishment that strengthens us to act justly, love tenderly and walk humbly with God.