Accept God’s Grace, Believe in Christ, and Live the Good Life
Rdgs: (1st: 2 Chr 36, 14-23; Ps 136, 1-6; 2nd: Eph 2 4-10: Gos: Jn 3, 14-21)
This brief reflection was written by Rev. Fr. Njoku Canice Chukwuemeka, C.S.Sp. He is a Catholic Priest and a Member of the Congregation of the Holy Ghost Fathers and Brothers (Spiritans). He is currently working at the Sanctuario del Espiritu Santo, en Dorado, Puerto Rico, del Internacional Grupo Espiritano De Puerto Rico – Republica Dominicana. For more details and comments contact him on: canice_c_njoku [at] yahoo.com, canicechukwuemeka [at] gmail.com.
“Laetare Jerusalem, et conventum facite omnes qui diligitis eam: gaudete cum laetitia, qui in tristitia fuistis…”
(Rejoice, O Jerusalem, and come together all you that love her: rejoice with joy, you that have been in sorrow…)”
Today is Laetare Sunday. It is unique because, it exalts us to rejoice in the hope of our salvation through the grace of God in Christ Jesus. While it a call to rejoice, it does not ask us to relent in our work with Christ this season of Lent. Instead, it is a call to accept the offer of God’s Grace to us this season. It is a call to get prepared to walk away from our captivity and exile, into our freedom and salvation.
Our first reading of this Sunday presents to us what seem to be the two sides of a coin. That is, the wrath and the mercy of God. These are revealed in both, the exile and liberation of his people. Three complaints were made against Israel and their leaders. These include: “That they were unfaithful; they defiled the temple; and, they laughed at the prophets.” This merited them deportation and exile. In spite of this, God decided to restore them at his own time. Hence, this reading is essentially a message of hope, grounded on the grace of our loving, merciful and sovereign Lord. This is an indication that history is a process, not only of destruction, but of selection, redemption and of restoration. Also, it shows us how God chose to save humanity through his only son Jesus Christ. It is rather unfortunate to note that, only a small proportion of those granted salvation through king Cyrus decided to return from exile. The rest continued living in exile. When God is ready to liberate us, we must respond positively to his offer in order to be liberated from both physical and spiritual captivity and exile. It is only through this that our joy will be complete.
In the second reading, Paul reminds us of our terrible state and what God did in order to redeem us. He writes: “…When we were dead through sin, He brought us to life with Christ.” All of these are simply a manifestation of God’s love and mercy. Most importantly, it highlights the grace of God in action. We did not merit it, and could not have helped ourselves. Here, we see the greatness of God’s grace in super action. His love does not depend upon what we are. It is not love of something good in us. Rather, it is love of us because of every good thing in Him. Today, as we rejoice because of the action of God’s grace towards us, we must take note of this important question that Paul asks us: “…Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?” (Rom 6, 1). Certainly, NO! The reason is that, we must not take anything for granted. We have a part to play. God’s grace has been poured out to save us. But we must reach out to fetch it. Also, we must avoid any way of life that blocks the path through which this grace must reach us. I love the way Paul described our relationship with God and Christ today: “We are God’s work of art, created in Christ…” Paul did not stop here, but went ahead to describe the purpose why God created us: “To live good life, as he meant us to live it from the beginning.” Are we really living this good life? Yes, grace abounds in, and with Christ. However, we must do what we were created to do in order to experience the fullness of this grace and salvation.
The gospel of this Sunday presents us with one of the most quoted verse of the bible: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, that anyone who believes in him might be saved” (Jn 3, 16). This is good news and a great source of joy for all of us. However, it is important to note also that this is an offer. In other words, as an offer, it is gratis (free). So, one can accept, or reject it because, it is not imposed on anyone. This is completely indicated in the terms of this offer: “…So that everyone who believes in him may not be lost but may be saved.” That is it, everyone who believes! God has made grace available this season. The most amazing thing about this grace is that, even though it was immeasurably costly for God to express, yet it is unconditionally free to all of us. It is God’s favor, freely offered to us but, expensively expressed! Therefore our state of salvation is dependent upon one thing. This is only, on our appreciation and acceptance of the grace of God through our Lord Jesus Christ. He has made redemption and salvation available this season. On our part, we must be ready to accept it. We must be ready to believe in Him, and to live the Good life.
In conclusion, we must make use of the opportunity presented to us this season to better our lives. We are called to rejoice today because grace has been poured out and because, our salvation is close at hand (Jas 5, 8). What we simply need to do is this: Believe and live the good life which God created us to live from the beginning. Good life means living as committed and faithful children of God, rather than as infidels and stubborn children. This is the only way our joy can be complete. So, like the psalmist, let us make a commitment to God as we say: “O Lord, let my tongue cleave to my mouth, if I forget you!”