By Fr Munachi E. Ezeogu, cssp
Homily for 4th Sunday of Lent - on the Gospel
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Rejoicing in God's Love

2 Chronicles 36:14-17, 19-23 Ephesians 2:4-10 John 3:14-21

"Rejoice, Jerusalem! Be glad for her, you who love her; rejoice with her, you who mourned for her" (Entrance Antiphon -- Isaiah 66:10-11). Why does the church invite us in the middle of the penitential season of Lent to rejoice? The story of a little incident that took place in Mainz in 1456 when Gutenberg was printing the first printed Bible can help us with the answer.

The printer had a little daughter, Alice, who came into the printing press and picked up a discarded sheet with only one line of print. That line of print read: "God loved the world so much that he gave..." Now, those were times when popular religion was a matter of living in fear and trembling before the awesome wrath of God. So Alice put the paper in her pocket and kept on thinking on the fact of God being so loving, and her face radiated with joy. Her mother noticed her changed behaviour and asked Alice what was making her so happy and Alice showed her mother the sheet of paper with the printed line. Her mother looked at it for some time and said, "So, what did God give?" "I don't know," said Alice, "but if God loved us well enough to give us something, then we need not be so afraid of Him."

What is love? What does it mean to say God loves us? To understand what the Bible means by God's love we must bear in mind that whereas the Greek language has three different words for three different types of love English has only one. In Greek we have (1) eros meaning romantic love (like the love between a man and a woman that leads to marriage), (2) philia meaning fellowship love (like the love for football which brings people together to form a fan club), and there is (3) agap or sacrificial love (like the love that makes a mother risk her own life for her yet unborn child). In romantic love we long to receive, in fellowship love we long to give and take, in sacrificial love we long to give. Now, with what kind of love does God love us? God loves us with agap or sacrificial love. "God loved the world so much that He gave." That is one big difference between God and us: God gives and forgives, we get and forget. Giving is a sign of agap. This is the kind of love God has for us. This is the kind of love we should have for one another. This is the kind of love that is lived in heaven. And where this kind of love is absent, what you get is hell.

A certain saint asked God to show her the difference between heaven and hell. So God sent an angel to take her, first to hell. There she saw men and women seated around a large table with all kinds of delicious food. But none of them was eating. They were all sad and yawning. The saint asked one of them, "Why are you not eating?" And he showed her his hand. A long fork about 4ft long was strapped to their hands such that each time they tried to eat they only threw the food on the ground. "What a pity" said the saint. Then the angel took her to heaven. There the saint was surprised to find an almost identical setting as in hell: men and women sitting round a large table with all sorts of delicious food, and with a four-foot fork strapped to their arms. But unlike in hell, the people here were happy and laughing. "What!" said the saint to one of them, "How come you are happy in this condition?" "You see," said the man in heaven, "Here we feed one another." Can we say that of our families, our neighbourhood, our church, our world? If we can say that, then we are not far from the kingdom of heaven.

Today the Church invites us to reflect on God's love for the world and to be joyful because of it. God loves each and everyone of us, so much so that He give us His only son. Today we are invited to say yes to God's love. It is sometimes hard to believe that God loves even me, But I believe it because I know that God loves unconditionally; no ifs, no buts. Then we can love God back and enter into a love relationship with God. Then, like little Alice, our faces will radiate the joy of God's love. Then we shall learn to share God's love with those around us. Then we shall learn to give to God and to one another,

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