Reading I: 2 Chronicles 36:14-16, 19-23
Reading II: Ephesians 2:4-10
GOSPEL: John 3:14-21
God so loved the world that he gave his only son. (John 3:16)
It is perhaps the most widely cited Scripture. It is short, simple, and comes just about as close to summing up Christianity as you can get. But can salvation really be that easy?
God’s Love Saves
Our salvation is a gift. That is the first thing that is readily apparent in John 3:16. God loved the world so much that he freely gave his son up to death. Unlike some of us, God gave a gift and did not require anything in return.
One common struggle that people have with this concept is it seems to go against what many people consider human nature. People of all ages tend to value things they have earned. Judging by my own experience, something freely given is often less appreciated because it was acquired with no effort whatsoever. I wish I could confidently say the idea that people do not appreciate something they have not earned doesn’t apply to Christians and our salvation – but I’m just not sure anymore. Far too many Christians seem to take salvation for granted.
On the other end of the spectrum, many Christians take their salvation for granted but act as if everyone else has a lot of work to do! They seem to have forgotten that the message of Christ was one of love and forgiveness, not of guilt and condemnation. People should not be shamed into accepting that Jesus died for us – they should be taught to rejoice at the news! That’s why it’s called the Good News – not the Bad News, or the Guilt-Inducing News – but the Good News!
Belief First, Action Second
When we truly believe that Jesus is our savior, we will move away from a false sense of duty and gladly go forth and be Christ in the world. In other words, if we truly accept that God loves us, we will naturally perform good works. The good we do will be a result of our acceptance of God’s grace, not a prerequisite to receiving it. But if we do not truly believe that Jesus died in order for us to have salvation, then our actions are hollow and without meaning.
Unfortunately, this is not an uncommon thing. Do you know someone who goes to Church every Sunday, receives the Sacrament of Reconciliation regularly, and then acts unethically at work as a matter of course? Or what about the person who volunteers with various groups, but grumbles about everything and makes it clear that helping out is a great “sacrifice?” Isn’t there something inherently hypocritical about this?
The fact is, we should not do good works in order to be Christians.
We should do good works because we already are Christians.
Lent is Action from Belief
During this season of Lent, we should keep in mind the idea that action follows belief. Let’s ask ourselves exactly why we are doing a particular penance. Is it because we want to recognize and acknowledge the fact that Jesus suffered and died for our sins? Or are we giving up junk food out of some sense of Catholic duty?
Lent is a time for us to prepare ourselves for the Resurrection of our Savior at the end of Holy Week. Part of that preparation involves penance and good works, but they must be based upon a solid understanding of John 3:16. “God so loved the world that he gave his only son.” Keep that in mind as we continue with this season of preparation. Start with a strong belief, and your penance and good works will be genuine, flowing easily from the heart.
What does John 3:16 mean to you?
Why are good works important?
What inspired you to choose your penance?
Original article by Brandon Jubar, 2003-2021.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.