When I was probably in first or second grade, my maternal grandfather would wear this really nice Bulova watch. I really admired that watch, and so my grandfather knowing that, made a deal with me. He said if you will learn to tell time, and then can demonstrate that to me that you can tell time well, I will give you this watch. It really gave me an incentive, and in about a year, my grandfather gave me his watch as part of a birthday gift. Looking back, I see how my grandfather, like so many of my other relatives, were proactive in teaching and sharing knowledge with me. My relatives didn’t necessarily wait until I was interested, they looked for opportunities to show me something new. And so it is with our God.
As I was researching for this homily, I came across some words from Bishop Baron that reminded me that, like my relatives, God is not passive. God does not wait for us to seek him; he has been and is seeking us. The “chosen people” we hear about in the Old Testament week after week, are a sign of God’s efforts to develop a relationship with the human race — an effort which continues to this day and includes us. The reading from the Book of Chronicles reminds us how God sent messengers through the prophets in an effort to call, teach, and to warn these chosen people. Not only did God call, but over time, He created a sacred place where they could encounter God personally. This temple was a place where they could be reminded about the wisdom God shared with them, the wonders that he had done for them, and a place where they could offer thanks for these repeated acts of love by God. Sadly, time and again, the chosen people became distracted, turned away and actively rejected what had been given to them. God gave them the freedom to choose, so he could not save them from the consequences of their choices. The temple was defiled and destroyed. The people were exiled to Babylon for seventy years, and once again, they were slaves. God, however, would not let this be the final word. God himself would rebuild this temple in such a way that it could never be destroyed or defiled again. It would be temple where all people would be gathered across place and time. It would be a temple where the Word and presence of God would dwell in perfect harmony.
For God so loved the world he gave his only begotten Son so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.
Bishop Baron says that these familiar words from John 3:16 are the perfect summary of God’s active pursuit and the fullness of his plan — to not only have a relationship with all humankind, but to save it from eternal destruction. Jesus himself becomes this new temple — a place where God dwells, a place where we can actually see the wonders of God with our own eyes, and touch him with our own hands. We do it each week as we gather around this table and celebrate Eucharist. Through this tremendous example of love, not only do we experience redemption, but we are invited into the unfathomable love that exists between Jesus and His Father. A love so deep that Jesus intentionally pursued his own physical destruction so that we could have the fullness life, both now and in the world to come. A love, as Saint Paul says, in that letter to the Ephesians that is rich in mercy and graces poured out on us each and every day. Grace that is freely given without strings, purely out of love. Grace that allows us to give the gifts that we have been given to others for their betterment. My brothers and sisters these are not the acts of a God who is judgmental and angry, but one who truly feels our pain, understands our difficulties, and wants to help us. A God who wants us to experience the fullness of his love.
In these remaining weeks of Lent may we spend time contemplating this great mystery of the Cross. Like Father Mark, I invite you to participate in the Stations of the Cross and/or the Divine Mercy Hour. May these moments of active reflection remove our fears, fill us with hope, and help us to pursue God as actively as He is pursuing each of us.