God Loves Us First

03-14-2021Pastoral ReflectionsRev. Brian F. Manning

In the Catholic and Christian Churches, we write and talk about Salvation so much. We announce to people that Salvation is impossible completely to comprehend and describe. We say that Salvation is an unconditional and no strings attached gift of love from God. It is really the gift of love from our God to us who have not earned this gift. In fact, this gift actually transforms our earthly life.

Our first reading from the Book of Second Chronicles points out sharply the faithfulness of God, even though God’s own people were unfaithful. In faithful love, our great God sent forth messengers and prophets to warn Israel, to call the people to faithfulness, and especially to love God in return. These gestures of love were often rejected. As a result of the infidelity and lack of love of Israel, the City of Jerusalem was destroyed, the people of Israel lost their home, and the people of the nation were taken into captivity.

Despite this lack of faithfulness by Israel, God remains faithful and loving. We learn in the scriptures that in their suffering, the people recognize this truth. In this story we hear how the anger of God ends and God extends salvation from a totally unexpected source, through Cyrus, a foreign conqueror. This foreign source brings the promise of a New Jerusalem and a rebuilt temple. Again, Salvation comes from the loving hand of God and the people are brought home safely. Our section from the Gospel of John complements the Old Testament passage on Salvation, which comes to us through the love of God. Our Gospel writer makes it crystal clear it is through the Son of God, the first fruit of God’s love, that the light of salvation is indeed now ours. John writes and warns us that we must not flee the light, but instead embrace it. John lets us know that the love of God seeks the response of acting in the light and living in truth. It is in living in this light that we recognize the salvation that God extends to us in our lives.

We do not need to die to figure out that life and living has meaning. Instead, as the scripture of today tells us, we need but die to old ways of living and accept the gift of salvation that God offers us. What this means in larger terms is that we must recognize that salvation, i.e., new life is not something that comes after this life or even is isolated from life now and today. Rather, it is clearly intrinsically linked to our life, to our practical here and now life of today and this moment. Salvation is not something that is ethereal and cosmic and also happens elsewhere. It is here and now in each of our own daily lives. This is the meaning of the Incarnation of Jesus.

When we come to believe that God loves us and actually loves us first, what a difference this belief makes in our lives. What a truth to hold in our hearts that the God we believe in loves us no matter what. The God we believe in invites us to be heaven bound to Him. All we need do is respond to His call each day practically in our lives and we will eventually come live with God, safe at home forever.