Catholic homily for the 4th Sunday of Lent Year B (LÆTARE SUNDAY)
Theme: GOD’S UNFATHOMABLE LOVE
By Rev Fr Gerald Muoka
Homily for Sunday March 14 2021
R1 – Jer 31:31-34
Resp Ps – Ps 137:1-6
R2 – Heb 5:7-9
Gospel- John 12:20-33
A Jewish legend has it that, when God was about to create man, he consulted the angels about His decision, and the following responses abound: “Create him not,” said the Angel of Justice, “For he will definitely commit all kinds of wickedness against his fellow men, he will be bad and cruel and dishonest and unrighteous. The Angel of Truth said, “Create him not, for he will be false and deceitful to his brothers and sisters and even to you.” “Create him not,” said the Angel of Holiness, “He will follow that which is impure in your sight and dishonor you to your face.”
Then stepping forward, the Angel of Mercy and Love said, “Our Heavenly Father, create him, even if he sins and turns from the path of right and truth and holiness, I’ll take him tenderly by the hand and speak loving words to him and then lead him back to you,” and God indeed created man following the counsel of the Angel of Mercy.
Beloved in Christ, today, the Fourth Sunday of Lent, is traditionally called, “Lætare (Rejoice) Sunday,” taken from the first word of the entrance antiphon. The Church encourages us to rejoice and be joyful, because, the celebration of the Paschal mysteries which brought consolations and restorations for the fallen humanity is drawing near.
The themes of Love, Mercy and Joy colour our liturgy today. The second reading and the Gospel reading describe God’s unfathomable and incalculable love for humanity by sending Jesus to die for our sins:
For God so loved the world: He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him may not perish but may have eternal life (Jn 3:16).
We sincerely acknowledge that:
~We have definitely perpetuated wickedness, cruelty, dishonesty and unrighteousness in His sight as the angel of Justice purported in the introit story (Gen 6:3)
~We have equally derailed from the path of truth, following the ways of falsehood and deceit(Gen 3:6)
~Worst still, we have preferred to toll the route of ungodliness and unholiness (Ex 32:4; Gen 18:20).
Yet, as described in the introit story, the angel of God’s love and mercy has never ceased to take us tenderly by the hand and speaking loving words to us and then leading us back to God, despite our notoriety in perverting His ways of justice, truthfulness and holiness.
*JOHN 3:16: THE GOSPEL OF THE GOSPELS.*
The Scriptural verse, John 3:16 of today’s Gospel, is considered the best loved verse in the Bible and always seen as “a consoling text for everyone.” Most scholars see it as, “the verse that summarises the entire scriptures and Gospels.” However, I prefer to call it, “THE GOSPEL OF THE GOSPELS.” This is simply because, in this verse, you equally find the acronyms of *GOSPEL*, viz: For G= *God* so loved the world: He gave His *O=Only* -begotten *S=Son* , so that everyone who believes in Him may not *P=Perish* but may have *E=Eternal* *L=Life*
*THREE CHARACTERISTICS OF GOD’S UNFATHOMABLE LOVE*
(i) *GOD’S LOVE IS UNCONDITIONAL*
Our parents love us because of “Storge” affiliations; husband loves the wife and vice versa, because of conjugal relationships; dates love each other because of erotic attractions and our friends value us because of our philia partnership. But God’s love, “agape” used in the Gospel text has no conditions for its merits. It is unmerited and unconditional. Thus, the highest form of love.
(ii) *GOD’S LOVE IS MERCIFUL AND FORGIVING*
God promised never to allow his beloved know decay (Ps 116:10). However, God realised this promise for tepid and forlorn humanity by surrounding and sustaining His agapeic relationships with us through Mercy and forgiveness. Mercy is the bedrock that strengthens every love relationship. The Mercy of God paves way for forgiveness. Thus, the scripture says, “The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, though we have rebelled against him” (Dan 9:9). He grants us mercy because He knows that, no one could stand if He begins to mark our iniquities (Ps 130:3)
(iii) *GOD’S LOVE IS EVERLASTING*
God’s love has no duration. It has no expiration. Agape never fades or wanes. It lasts as far as humanity endures. That is why the scripture affirms, “I have loved you with an everlasting love and so I still maintain my faithful love for you” (Jer 31:3).
However, God’s merciful, forgiving, unconditional and everlasting love is practically exemplified in the first reading, in God’s dealings with the chosen people, Israel, who, despite their infidelity and rebellion, were never denied God’s inestimable love. God in return, chose Cyrus the Great, a pagan conqueror, to become the instrument of His mercy and salvation for His chosen people exiled in Babylon.
As we joyfully return to the reign of God’s love in our lives, families, communities and churches, the following reassuring words and steps are phenomenal:
(1) *GOD LOVES US PERSONALLY*
The readings of today’s liturgy give us a reassurance that, despite all odds, God loves us personally. Despite loving us everlastingly, His banner over us is love (Songs of Solomon 2:4).
As St. Augustine puts it: “God loves each one of us as if there were only one of us to love.
So, no matter what you are passing through, remember these reassuring words:
And now, thus says Yahweh, he who created you, Jacob, who formed you, Israel: Do not be afraid, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name, you are mine (Is 43:1). He accomplished these words today, by using a pagan conqueror to set free His chosen race…. He is still in the business of turning _NOTHING INTO SOMETHING AND A NOBODY INTO SOMEBODY._
(2) *HIS MERCIFUL LOVE NEVER COMES TO AN END*
The Scriptures assures us that, “Yahweh’s mercies are not over, His deeds of faithful love not exhausted; they are renewed every morning” (Lam 3:23).
Lent remains a period in which we seek God’s mercy through repentance and a season of massive exodus from sin, when the angel of mercy takes us by his hands, back to God. May we never cease to exploit God’s incalculable and merciful love by always consolidating our belief in Christ’s central mission: “remission of sin” (Jn 1:29).
(3) *BE AN INSTRUMENT OF GOD’S LOVE, MERCY AND SALVATION*
We need to reciprocate God’s love by loving others and developing the heart of humanity.
God’s love is unconditional, everlasting, universal, forgiving, and merciful. The love Cyrus the Great, showered on the Israelites in the first reading, has both unconditional and universal characteristics. He has deep love and feelings for humanity.
Let us try to make an earnest attempt to include these qualities, especially, those in public offices, in sharing our love with others without undue attachments.
Finally, a certain Saint once asked God to show her the difference between Heaven and Hell. So God asked an angel to take her first to Hell. There she saw men and women seated around a large table with all kinds of delicious food. But none of them were eating. They were all sad and yawning. The saint asked one of them, “Why are you not eating?” And he showed her his hand. A long fork about 4 feet long was strapped to their hands such that every time they tried to eat they only threw the food on the ground. “What a pity!” said the Saint. Then the angel took her to Heaven. There the saint was surprised to find an almost identical setting as in hell: men and women sitting around a large table with all sorts of delicious food, and with four-foot forks strapped to their arms. But unlike hell the people in heaven were happy and laughing. “What!” said the Saint to one of them, “How come you are happy in this condition?” “You see,” said the man in Heaven, “Here we feed one another.”
Beloved in Christ, can we say this of our families, our neighborhood, our Church, our world? If we can say that, then we are not far from the Kingdom of Heaven.
MAY GOD GIVE US A HEART THAT RECIPROCATES THIS DIVINE LOVE WITH DEEPER LOVE FOR HUMANITY.
*GOD BLESS YOU!*
_FR GERALD MUOKA._