Second Sunday in Lent: “Proclamation of Profitable Belief”
John 3:16-17 says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to judge the world but that the world might be saved through Him.”
My mission in life is to make God known through my life and my teachings amongst others. I believe that God is misrepresented especially in Christianity and in the Church. God is thought of as an angry God, a revengeful God who one day will get back at us for offending Him all our lives. God the Father is like Jesus. Whatever we see in Jesus, this is what God the Father is like. In echoing John 3:17, in John 12:47 it says, “If anyone hears My words and does not believe, I still don’t judge him.” In another translation, it says, “If anyone hears My words and does not obey them, I don’t condemn him still because I did not come to judge the world, but to save it.”
How does God save the world? By grace. Is it a lenient grace? A cheap grace? Look at the Cross, and see if it is cheap grace. The price paid was expensive. The price paid was the life of God to ransom a slave. One line of a worship song says, “I will never know how much it costs to see my sin upon the cross.” God draws to Himself by love. He doesn’t threaten people to the kingdom of God. We used to do this to evangelize where we scare people out of hell into the kingdom of God. This is not so because God influences and He shows us His compassion so that we voluntarily come to Him.
Romans 2:4 says, “The kindness of God leads to repentance.” It is not the fear of His wrath that will make us repent but His goodness to us. If we understand the kindness of God, we will not abuse it. If we understand the forgiveness of God, the price He paid to forgive our sin, then, instead of abusing it, we will not offend God with what we do with our lives.
Jesus could have performed a miracle by getting down from the cross. This could have gone viral if this happened today where a criminal nailed to the cross will go down. This could have been a very good evangelical tool. Jesus did not do this. The last act that God did, in Christ before His last breath, was an act of love. It is a miracle that Christ would die for us, but it wasn’t a display of omnipotence or an almighty power or magic. Christ’s acts were all a display of love. This is how He saved the world and this is how He continues to draw people even two thousand years after. This is what brings people to their knees. The verses of a song goes, “God spoke the word and all the world came to order. You waved Your hand and planets filled the empty sky. While these things are amazing, what really brings me to my knees is that You loved me by giving Your life for me.”
The creation of the universe is awesome, but they all fail in comparison to the love of God. It is like He has outdone Himself because He has shone yet something more amazing. C.S. Lewis said, “The greatest display of omnipotence is God giving us free will knowing that we could and we would violate Him and offend Him and yet, He still loves us.”
James 4:12 says, “There is only one lawgiver and judge.” God is the one judge who has the exclusive right to judge, to condemn. The One God who has the exclusive right to judge does not judge. He is not an angry God. God loves us; God has forgiven us; and God is not angry at us.
Jesus knows that when we would go on with our crooked ways or sinful ways, we would suffer for this is the consequence of sin. He does not punish us; we bring the punishment upon ourselves. On Palm Sunday, riding on the donkey, He wept and said, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how often I wanted to gather you like a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you would not have it that way. Behold, your place will be desolate. Your enemies will hem you in from every side, and they will trample you and they will not leave one stone upon another in this city because you ignored the day of your visitation.” Jesus’ heart was broken for them, but He was not angry at them and He did not want anything bad to happen to them so He cried.
God is like Jesus. What we see in Jesus is God the Father’s heart. Instead of throwing a stone at an adulteress, Jesus restores her. Instead of putting down a Samaritan, He lifts him up. Instead of condemning tax collectors, sinners, and prostitutes, He loves, corrects and saves them. He goes after them and He doesn’t ostracize them. He who would rather die for His enemies than kill them. To the very people who drove the nails through His hands, on the cross He said, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.” Whatever the Son is, that is the Father and the Holy Spirit. They share the same heart and disposition.
God causes all things to work together for good. He cleans up our mess. He chooses to bless, not curse; to love, not hate; to save, not condemn. This is the King in the Kingdom. Our Collect for today says, “Almighty God, whose glory it is always to have mercy.” The glory of God is seen in His mercy. Yes, His glory may be seen in His creation, but the glory of God is always seen in His mercy. The kingdom of this King is what we want to see and this is the reason that we need to be born-again. John 3:3 says, “Unless a man is born again, you cannot see the kingdom of God.” Being born again means to be born from above. Unless we are born from above, we cannot see the kingdom of heaven.
In the Philippines, the term born-again has become synonymous to being evangelical. Evangelical American missionaries brought it here and it became a house-hold term. I believe in it and I have experienced it, but I don’t believe in what it has come to mean to some Christians of getting into heaven. The purpose is not to get to heaven, but to see the kingdom of heaven. To be born again is to see the kingdom of heaven, not as a place in which people cash their checks after this earthly life, but as a realm in which people eternally make deposits of good deeds starting in this earthly life, because that's what this kingdom's King is like.
The kingdom of heaven is here, upon us. It is not waiting out after this earthly life. It is a realm that is here. It is not a place to collect our rewards but to give of ourselves. This King is ever blessing; He always makes a deposit, always giving. Seeing this kingdom of God is being born again. Being born again is not getting a ticket to heaven. Being born again is understanding what the Kingdom is all about. When we are born from above where Christ is, sitted at the right hand of God, always giving, always loving, always having mercy, always having compassion, not judging, not pointing fingers, then we see the kingdom of God. Then, we are born again as we are born from above.
Being born again is having a genuine encounter with Jesus Christ that turns our life around and makes us see that life is not about what we can get, but what we can give because this is who our Lord is We start a relationship with Him. From today and the next few Sunday, the gospels are about people having an encounter with Jesus. Today, it is Nicodemus. Next Sunday, it is the Samaritan woman at the well and next Sunday after this is about the man born blind. It turns them around because now, they could see and they are converted as citizens of heaven. It is an event marking a beginning of a relationship with Jesus Christ.
As I said, I believe this and I have experienced it and I see my life with that as a reference point. It should mean a renewal because many times, our relationship with Jesus turns cold. We violate our vows to Him and we offend Him. We betray Him each time; but He still continues to forgive us. I see Him every Sunday before Mass waiting for us right in front of the altar to be reconciled to Him in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
In this sense, we must be born-again again as we need to repent and be reconciled to God. The whole Church needs to be born again and again and again. Jesus elaborated by saying that we need to born of water and the Spirit. We need to be baptized and be born of the Spirit through the Sacraments. It is a continuous process. We continue to be justified. The difference between justification and sanctification is that justification is one time like the Cross justified us and forgave our sins. Sanctification is a process and we continue to be washed and washed. We need to be cleaned continuously. Without grace from visible signs, we can’t enter or see the kingdom of God. This process continues until we reach that day when we will be like Jesus.
We need to be born from above, and when we are, we are enlisted as ambassadors from the Kingdom that is above with a mission to win back earth for the kingdom of heaven. There was a pretender, a usurper, a thief in the kingdom of God that established his kingdom planting sin that is the opposite of the ways of the Kingdom. We need to bring back the ways of the kingdom of God here on earth as it is in heaven.
In sci-fi movies, male aliens come to earth to look for the women to multiply here on earth and conquer our world. We come from the kingdom of heaven and we are all citizens of heaven. We establish the kingdom of God here by being like that Kingdom’s King. It is not by the sword, hatred, threats or coercion, but by kindness. This is what leads people to repentance and this is how we win back the world for the kingdom of heaven. We are ambassadors that bring people to God to reconcile because we share His compassion for the lost.
We this, I hope we have a better understanding of our mission, that is, to know God and to make Him known because this is the way it is in the kingdom of our God.