Sunday Sermon for April 29, 1012, The Fourth Sunday of Easter, Year B
Readings: Acts 4:8-12; 1Jn 3:1-2; Jn 10:11-18
In the second reading today St. John marvels at the love the Father has shown us in letting us be called children of God. This is a truly astounding reality and one which, sadly, most people do not think about enough. Consider your dignity as a child of God, a member of Jesus Christ, a partaker of the Divine nature, a recipient of Sanctifying Grace and a heir of Heaven. The enemy of our souls has had a field day convincing us that we are worthless, unlovable, and unacceptable. In order to accept the deception of the Father of Lies, we first have to reject the truth of the One Who cannot lie.
While it is certainly true that we are sinners and we do not deserve the love God bestows upon us, that does not change the fact that God loves us. Remember, love is a gift, not a reward. God does not love us because we are so good, because we did such a good job on something, or because we earned His approval. The fact is that there is nothing, absolutely nothing that we can do of our own self that can earn God’s love or any other reward from God.
Of course, the question is then asked why would God love us? The answer is simple, because we are His children. Most people reading this article are parents. Ask yourself why you love your children so much. Once again, the answer is simple: because they are your children. It is not because they have earned or deserved your love, it is simply because they are your children. God loves your children infinitely more than you do. He also loves you infinitely more than your parents love(d) you.
A proof of your love is found in the sacrifices you make for your children. It is certainly the norm that while we might make some sacrifices and perform some acts of charity for others, they are not anywhere near what we are willing to do for our own children. God is a Father Who loves His children; therefore, He is willing to sacrifice a great deal for His children.
Our Lord makes clear in the Gospel just how much God is willing to sacrifice when He tells us that He lays down His life for His sheep. The reason, He says, is because they are His. They are not someone else’s for whom there might be some charity or sacrifice; they are His own for whom He is willing to sacrifice His very life. He even makes clear that no one takes His life from Him; He lays it down freely and He takes it up again. This, He says, is the command He was given by His Father.
If we go back to the first paragraph and recall all of the astounding truths mentioned (and more could be added), it is the truth of our Lord’s self sacrifice that I personally find the most amazing of all. Yes, it is wonderful to be endowed with so much dignity that it is almost embarrassing for us to even look at it, let alone admit it and embrace it. But to have God Himself come to earth, assume our human nature and then die for us. This is not only astounding, but it becomes the foundation for fully understanding all of the other points mentioned above.
It is also the reason why St. Peter could boldly state in the first reading that there is no other name given under Heaven by which we will be saved. In Jesus we are saved from the oppression of the devil, we are saved from our own sins, we are saved from error, fear and hopelessness.
In order to gain control over every aspect of our lives, the evil one has to remove God from our lives. When the Holy Spirit revealed that there is only one path to Heaven and that no one will be saved in any other manner than being saved in and through Jesus, how is it that so many are rejecting the Lord and looking to some alternative path? There is no other way; He is the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but through Him.
When we do not know Jesus, we do not know ourselves because we are His. At the same time, a rejection of our dignity and all of the other gifts God has bestowed upon us in His Son is a rejection of the Giver of those gifts. It is time that we stop ignoring or rejecting God’s love for us. In the words of St. John: see what love the Father has bestowed on us. Look at Jesus, look at the gifts God gives you in love: accept and believe.
Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit www.thewandererpress.com.