Wednesday, April 22, 2009

God So Loved The World!

God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that through Him the world might be saved.

Whoever believes in Him is not condemned; but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God. (John 3:16-21)

It has always been easier to complain about what’s wrong with the world that to do something that would make the world a better place. I often receive snail mail from folks who are complaining about something or other: the commencement speaker at a Catholic college in the Midwest, the interrogation techniques approved by a president who calls himself a Christian. Or, at the opposite end of the scale, the religious education director who won’t let the teenager be confirmed because she hasn’t fulfilled all of the prerequisites. Finally, I learned how to deal with such messages. A friend who works at the Bulk Mail center in town told me: Instead of writing “Return to sender” on the envelope, write “Refused”. That way, the sender has to pay the return postage!

It has always been easier to curse the darkness than to light a candle. Saint John of the Cross wrote, “In the evening of life, you will be examined on love.” What terrible things you condemned won’t even be on the examination paper. Hatred is not on the curriculum. Saint John – the Evangelist, not the Carmelite mystic – wrote “Whoever believes in Him is not condemned”, but he would be surprised at some of the ways we use the word today. He would not understand the expression, “I believe in God but I don’t need to go to Church.” For John, there were no “believing, not practicing” Christians. They believed; they practiced; and they witnessed to their faith, sometimes with their lives. The Greek word for “witness” is “martyr”.

“But we don’t use Greek in the liturgy, or even Latin, any more”, you say. Then let’s look at the English word, “believe”, instead. The root word “lief” is Anglo-Saxon, a language akin to German. Some of you might know the classical romantic song, “Ich liebe dich” – it means I love you. There cannot be real belief without genuine love. If the Evangelist were to come back, he might say to us, “Don’t tell me what you believe; tell me who you love.” And your answer should be, “I love God, with all my heart, and my neighbor as myself.” And who, pray tell, is your neighbor? My neighbor is everyone who is not myself.

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