Homily April 19th, 2023

Wednesday of the Second Week of Easter – Jn 3:16-21

Today’s Gospel continues yesterday’s discourse with Nicodemus, and begins with those profound words that we probably know from memory: “God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son.” We can divide the Gospel into two parts: first, God’s love for us and what He has done for us, and, second, what mankind’s response has been.

Regarding God’s love, we notice two things: first, the Greek word for “loved” here is a form ἀγαπάω, the verb form of agapé. Biblical scholars tell us that this sort of love is a “discriminating affection which involves choice and selection”[1]; in other words, it’s not some generic sort of love. It’s a particular, a singular love, shown for me as an individual, that led God to send His only Son. And what did He send His Son to do? This is our second point: God sent His Son to suffer and die for us, because this is the price of love. Commenting on this sort of love, C. S. Lewis wrote that “to love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. . . .  The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.”[2] God, who was and is perfectly happy in heaven, entered into the world in order to suffer and to die out of love for us, wounds received, as Zechariah says, in the house of His ἀγαπητῷ, His beloved.[3] This marvelous work is recalled in the Easter exultet, as we proclaim, “O love, O charity beyond all telling, to ransom a slave you gave away your Son!”

John tells us that mankind has often rejected God’s love, instead preferring the darkness to the light; those who live the truth, however, turn towards God and the light. When we think of our response to God’s love revealed in the Easter Triduum, we can recall how St. Ignatius begins his Contemplation to attain love with two presuppositions: first, love is shown more in deeds than in words, and, second, love consists in a mutual sharing, where the lover seeks to gives the good things he possesses to the beloved.[4] If we are to make an adequate response to God for His love for us, it must be shown in deeds like His, in a complete gift of self for Him. This implies suffering, as Lewis writes a few lines later: “We shall draw nearer to God, not by trying to avoid the sufferings inherent in all loves, but by accepting them and offering them to Him; throwing away all defensive armor. If our hearts need to be broken, and if He chooses this as the way in which they should break, so be it.”[5] We must give ourselves entirely to Him, as He surrendered Himself for us.

Today, let us pray, through the intercession of Mary, Mother of our Risen Lord, for the grace to be able to love Christ as He loved us, in the complete offering of self.

[1] From the HELPS Word Studies.

[2] C. S. Lewis, The Four Loves (New York: Harcourt Brace & Company, 1991): 121.

[3] The Greek version of Zechariah 13:6 reads “ἐν τῷ οἴκῳ τῷ ἀγαπητῷ μου.”

[4] The Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius [230].

[5] Lewis, 122.



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