Sunday, March 11, 2018

HOMILY – 4th SUNDAY IN LENT – YEAR B


By Deacon Jerry Franzen    Cathedral        3/11/18
2 Chronicles 36: 14-16, 19-23   Ephesians 2:4-10     John 3: 14-21

Praised Be Jesus Christ  Good Morning.
Love is sometimes hard to define.
When I have asked engaged couples if they love one another,
they say that they do with an attitude of
“Well, isn’t that a given?”
When I ask them what love means to them,
they have trouble giving a definite answer.
This problem may arise from the different ways
we use of the term “love.”
*These facets can lead us to a confused idea of what love is.
One night a man decided to show his wife how much he loved her.
After dinner he recited romantic poetry,
telling her he would climb high mountains,
swim wide oceans, cross deserts in the burning heat of the day,
and even sit at her window and sing love songs to her
in the moonlight just to be near her.
After listening to him go on for some time about this immense love
he had for her, she ended the conversation when she asked,
“But will you wash the dishes for me?”

I

In the first reading, we heard about a time when the Israelites,
even the princes and the priests, were terrible sinners.
Yet, God loved his people so much that he sent prophets to them
early and often in an attempt to change them.
Eventually God became very angry;
he allowed the enemies of the Israelites to burn the temple
and take the survivors away as slaves.
After a long captivity, because of His LOVE for them,
the Lord inspired the pagan King Cyrus
to release the Israelites and to support the rebuilding of the temple.

In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul praised God because of His love
for him, Paul, and his brothers and sisters in Ephesus.
It was this LOVE that raised them from the death of sin
to life in Christ.
Paul says that grace, the result of God’s LOVE,
is the means by which we can be seated with Him in heaven.

AND the selection of the third chapter of John’s Gospel includes
this famous verse, verse 16:
“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.”    
That verse has been described as the entire Bible in a nutshell.                  
Actually one can pick pretty much any reading from any Mass
 and relate it to God’s love for us.
That is why John 3:16 is referred to as the Bible in a nutshell.

II

So, let’s look a bit deeper into the word “LOVE”
and how God loves us.
**The earliest known written version of the New Testament
was written in Greek, not English.
Ancient Greek had at least four different words
for the single English word "love?"
Each Greek word implies some kind attraction and appreciation           between someone who loves and someone who is loved.
Each word expresses a different facet of the word “love.”

1. The most basic word for love in ancient Greek is "storge"
[STORE-gay].
It signifies a bond that we feel because of some natural connection.
An example would be love between family members.
Jesus, having a human nature, loved his mother in this way.
He also loves us in this way

2. The second Ancient Greek word for love is "eros" [AIR-ohss].
This is an attraction that leads to the kind of passionate feeling
that carries us away and fills us with intense emotions.
Two people become romantically involved and that carries over
to the physical love of husband and wife.
Jesus loves us passionately, but not with the same emotion that leads
to married love.

3. The third ancient Greek word for love is "philia" [FEEL-ee-yuh].
It describes a bond formed when two people share a common interest or ideal – a friendship,
It is a bond based on a conscious decision to share one's interests with another person.
This word is used by Jesus at the Last Supper:
"I shall no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know
the master's business; I call you friends…..
Now that they had learned much from Him, they shared in His life.
We are to be friends of Jesus – the personal relationship with imHimHim.

4. The fourth word for love in ancient Greek "agape" 
[ah-GAH-pay], is used far more frequently in the Bible,
than the other three words combined.
This is the love that focuses on doing good for others,
serving them no matter I feel about them
or what I might get in return.
This self-giving love, the essential love of Jesus,
not because doing so filled him with ecstasy,
but because WE needed him to do it.
He wanted to restore hope to our sinful hearts
and lead us back from our sinful exile into the Father's house.
 “Agape” is the word used in today's Gospel:”God so loved the……”
It also the word used when Jesus gives his New Commandment
at the Last Supper:    "Love one another as I have loved you.”
When St. John in his First Letter writes, "God is love,"
 “agape” is the word used.
God is completely focused on our good, happiness and fulfillment.
That's why he created us: not for his happiness, but for ours.
That's why he forgives us as often as we need to be forgiven.
That's why he feeds us with the Body and Blood of His Son.
That's why he carries our crosses with us,
 never leaving us to suffer alone.
And since we were created in God's image,
 we will find the fulfillment that we yearn for
 as we gradually learn to love in this same Christ-like way.
This is the type of love that is essential between husband and wife.

III

On Feb. 21, one of the great preachers of our day,
possibly the greatest, was invited by God to sit next to Him.
I certainly hope that Rev. Billy Graham is now with Jesus
who loved him so much that he gave His life for him.
When Rev. Graham’s body lay in state in the Capitol rotunda,
President Trump said that in essence Rev. Gram’s sermons
could all be summarized as “God loves you!”
Bishop Foys, near the end of his homily at Confirmation, says
to those who are to be confirmed,
“If you remember only one thing from what I have said,
remember that God loves you.”
**That love for each of us is personal, active, unconditional,
 and unlimited.
The crucifix proves it and
our experience of that selflessness here today confirms it.

In the three previous weeks of Lenten penance, we have been first
reminded of our need to seek the solace of the desert
to consider our sinfulness, second
reminded of how God wanted to impress upon the Israelites
the seriousness of sin by attempting to wipe it out
with a great flood, and then, last Sunday,
reminded of the ways of our sin as in the Ten Commandments.
That all may have seemed like a lot of bad news; in a way, it is.              
Today we are reminded that it is precisely because of those sins
 and our selfishness that Christ came to earth to save us.
And that is certainly the Good News.
This Sunday is called "Laetare Sunday," the Sunday of Rejoicing."
That's the reason we wear rose-colored vestments today.
Today as Jesus renews his unconditional love for us
in this Holy Mass, and especially as we receive him
in Holy Communion, let's thank him for His love.
May we cooperate with God’s grace not only to experience his love,
but to share that “agape” with others, especially those
who are still living in darkness.
This week, may our active, Christ-like love
be like a sunrise in the hearts of others,
giving them hope and drawing them towards
the saving fountain God's grace.

*Story taken from “1001 More Humorous Illustrations for Public Speaking” by Michael Hodgin #789, p 277 Zondervan Pub. House,
Grand Rapids MI 1998

**Information for this homily taken from: https://www.epriest.com/homily_packs/build/125

***The division used in this homily is drawn from C.S. Lewis's "The Four Loves" and the first part of Pope Benedict's Encyclical Letter, "Deus caritas est."


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