Today, September 14, is the Feast of the Triumph of the Cross.
Today’s Gospel is John 3:13-17
Jesus said to Nicodemus:
“No one has gone up to heaven
except the one who has come down from heaven, the Son of Man.
And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert,
so must the Son of Man be lifted up,
so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.”
For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son,
so that everyone who believes in him might not perish
but might have eternal life.
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world,
but that the world might be saved through him.
Of course, Jesus was not sent to condemn the world. Why? Because the world already stood condemned. The world did not stand in need of condemnation. The world stood in need of redemption. Which is why Jesus came, “that the world might be saved through him.” If the world did not stand condemned, there was no need for it to be saved.
Today, many have lost a sense of sin. In looking to Jesus as the One Who loves us unconditionally, Who “meets us where we are,” Whose Vicar on Earth says, “Who am I to judge?”, we mishear the whole truth and sometimes forget that Jesus is our Savior. He is our Savior for a reason: we need to be saved!
It is unpleasant and socially unacceptable to point out that any particular act represents an act that is contrary to God’s will. It does little good to remind us that “we’re all sinners,” because that is often another way of refusing to make a judgment on the immorality of our own or another’s actions.
It might do some good to remind ourselves what makes us sinners. Surely, it is our sins. No, not our mistakes. Not our broken human nature. “We’re all human. We all make mistakes. So, we shouldn’t be judging other people.” But, our being human doesn’t make us sinners, for God made us human and God did not make us sinners. Neither do our mistakes make us sinners. Mistakes are mistakes, lapses in judgment or errors in action, like missing a step on the way down the stairs and falling to the ground level. No one intends such a thing.
Sins are willful choices that we make that are contrary to God’s will. Ah, there’s the rub! For no one, says our contemporary broken culture, can know what is God’s will. So, we find ourselves back at the root of the problem: the denial of truth. No one can claim to know the truth, so no one can claim to know the truth of God’s will.
This represents the great chasm between the Judeo-Christian tradition and every culture that is dominated by too high a regard for either the rights of the individual or the individual’s responsibilities to the larger community. A too high regard for the rights of the individual insists that each individual is empowered to create their own reality, and that none can judge the truth of another’s reality. A too high regard for the responsibilities of the individual to the larger community insists that one’s duties to the state trump all else, including one’s devotion to God and the truth He has revealed. The state determines what is true, and no individual may judge the state’s version of the truth.
In the midst of these dueling claims comes the Church as the instrument of God’s revelation to humankind. So many reject the Church today because the Church speaks a truth that many abhor, including the truth of the world’s condemnation and need for redemption. Which means our own condemnation and need for redemption. Our own. Yours. Mine. Ours. We are condemned and are in need of redemption. Praise God that the Father has sent His Son into the world, not to condemn it, but that the world – that we – might be saved through Him.
The world rejects this revelation. Like a sick man who insists he is well, man rejects the medicine of God’s grace, to heal his sinfulness and bring him to life.
The medicine so needed in our world today is not merely that God loves us, for many cannot fathom that God does not love them. The medicine so needed in our world is that God’s love is such that He came to redeem us, to save us from our sins, to bring us back to life. This is a message people don’t wan’t to hear because people don’t believe that they are in need of redemption, that they are in sin, that they are dead. Sick men who think themselves well don’t take medicine. Dead men who think themselves alive don’t embrace God’s grace.
The Church proclaims loudly the love of God for all. The Church needs to proclaim loudly, as well, what that love means.
Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.