Did you notice how short the readings are for this Sunday? I did. The first reading, the second reading, and the Gospel passage are shorter than those of some other Sundays. I will be focusing on the second reading and the Gospel passage. The second reading has only four verses, and the Gospel passage has only eight. Both readings have the same author, John, one of the twelve apostles. The second reading is from the 1st Letter of John, while the Gospel passage is from the Gospel according to John.

I also noticed the frequency of the words love, loves, and loved in the second reading and the Gospel passage. I counted and realized that “love,” “loves,” and “loved” appeared nine times in the second reading and nine times in the Gospel passage, making a total of eighteen times. And if I add the word “Beloved” to the count, it raises the number to nineteen.

The last verse of the second reading says, “In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as expiation for our sins.” I see this verse as a call to reexamine our notion of our relationship with God. It calls us to reconsider how we see God. Many times, when we go to God in prayer, we tend to go like people who are going to convince God about our needs. We go like people going to inform God of something he does not know. We wonder if God is cranky today, if he is grumpy today, or if he is not in a good mood today, so we think of what to do to appease him before we tell him what we need from him. But this verse shows us that the first step in our relationship with God comes from him; he takes the initiative. So John says, “It is not that we have loved God, but that he loved us…” In the Gospel passage, Jesus says, “It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you…”

So, in this relationship, the initiative comes from God. And to show how much he loves us, John 3:16 tells us that he gave us his only-begotten Son for our salvation, not one of his children, but the only one he has. If he loves us that much, what is impossible for him to do for us?

When we go to confession, sometimes, we fear, wondering if God will forgive us. The truth is that God is always on our side, but the question is whether we are on our side. God always wills the best for us, but I wonder if we always will the best for ourselves. Even though God loves us so much, he will not impose forgiveness on us; he will not impose the good on us. Because he loves us so much, he gives us the free will to accept forgiveness or not, to accept his good gifts to us or not.

My dearly beloved in Christ, God takes the first step in this relationship of love. He loves us so much that he gave us his most precious treasure, his only-begotten Son. There is no question about his love for us; the question is about our willingness to cooperate with his plans for us. That is why, from time to time, when I wake up in the morning, I say to God, “Please, Lord, get me out of the way today.”  Let us pray that God may grant us the grace never to become obstacles in the way of our blessings until we come to our heavenly inheritance through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Rev. Fr. Emmanuel Ochigbo

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