Solomon at his throne, painting by Andreas Brugger, 1777 Photo/Wikimedia Commons

God’s love is eternal always

  • March 5, 2015

Fourth Sunday of Lent (Year B) March 15 (2 Chronicles 36:14-17a, 19-23; Psalm 137; Ephesians 2:4-10; John 3:14-21)

People have always struggled to make sense out of the clash of armies and swirl of global events. The author of Chronicles wrote some time after the exile in the sixth century B.C. Drawing on the books of Samuel, Kings and even some extra-biblical works that we no longer possess, he interpreted Israel’s royal history through a theological lens. In his view, God was the motivating force behind international affairs.

In his account of Israel’s kings, David and Solomon represented the high point. After that, things went from bad to worse, with the exception of a few good kings like Josiah and Hezekiah. Most of the kings — and the people with them — turned their backs on God and did what was an abomination in God’s sight. The chief sins were corruption, especially in the social arena with the oppression of the poor, and idolatry.

Throughout all of this, God was portrayed as compassionate, kind and extremely patient. God sent countless emissaries — prophets and holy people — to call Israel back to the true path. All this was to no avail, and the moment arrived in which the accumulated debt had to be paid.

In the eyes of the Chronicler, and other Old Testament writers, the destruction of Jerusalem and deportation to Babylon was divine judgment.

A society living in conformity with divine law has a strength, vitality and blessing that will enable it to weather many storms. One that has turned its collective back on God in order to live according to selfishness, greed, injustice and violence can be said to be rotten from within and will fall of its own accord.

This lesson still applies today. We should note in this story the incredible compassion and patience of God, as well as the many opportunities people had to choose a different path. Even after relating the story of disaster, the Chronicler ends on a hopeful note. Still exercising the divine role in world history, God arranged for Cyrus the Persian to defeat the Babylonians. Cyrus in turn allowed the exiles to return home and rebuild the temple and nation. God uses individuals in every nation to accomplish the divine will, even when they are completely unaware of the role they are playing.

Human beings have a very poor track record in remaining on God’s path. If left strictly to our own devices, most of us would be lost. The same grace, patience and kindness that the Chronicler spoke of is evident in the Letter to the Ephesians. Since we are in such need of help, we are granted salvation as a gift — it is not our own doing.

This is not a call to complacency, for we must co-operate with this grace, but God makes up for what we lack. Gratitude and a renewed dedication to God’s ways is the perfect response to such grace.

John illustrates so well the extent of divine mercy and compassion. God held back nothing in His attempt to redeem humanity, even sending His only Son. Just as the bronze serpent was lifted up on a pole in the desert to provide healing for those bitten by serpents, Jesus would be lifted up to heal us of our own poison — death and the fear associated with it.

God did not desire the condemnation of the world or anyone in it. Those who embraced the light and the message that God sent into the world would be granted eternal life. Those who rejected it and fled the light would not be condemned by God. By their refusal, they condemned themselves to continue in their present state.

Why would anyone turn away from the light? The answer is simple: fear, and it is something that afflicts most people. People fear being unmasked; they do not want the hidden layers of themselves to be exposed to scrutiny by others or by God.

The deepest and darkest part of our inner selves is under lock and key. To accept the loving but unblinking and truthful gaze of the eternal God requires a degree of surrender and humility that is just beyond many people.

God’s messenger will come to us time and time again. The fundamental message of all these readings should carry us through: God’s love never sleeps, never gives up and never fails.