Fourth Sunday of Lent
Brothers and sisters: God, who is rich in mercy, because of the great love he had for us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, brought us to life with Christ — by grace you have been saved —, raised us up with him, and seated us with him in the heavens in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not from you; it is the gift of God; it is not from works, so no one may boast. For we are his handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for the good works that God has prepared in advance, that we should live in them. Ephesians 2:4-10
I’m not close to Holy Week and I. Am. Tired. Blame it on my thyroid, attempting to bounce back from the foster kiddos, an odd schedule, or sicknesses and allergies, but my body is just begging to take a week and stay in bed. And yet, it’s Lent, the time when we feel that we should be giving more, doing more, praying more. Each week in our Scripture readings, I’m seeing God’s overwhelming love, mercy, and grace that he pours out on us when we inevitably land in this spot. We’ve been saved by grace. It’s not our doing. It’s not dependent on how hard or not hard we’re working. It’s a gift from God.
As Catholics, I think we often picture our faith to be like one of those fundraising poster boards where you fill up the thermometer with the more money you raise. We just have to do enough good works to fill up the thermometer and then we can rest easy. We did it. God will love us now. We’re in the safe zone.
But faith doesn’t work like that. Faith is a relationship, not a fundraising-good-works-thermometer. It’s a conversation. It flows from the heart. And no amount of good works could ever fill up that thermometer, because we could never give enough to make up for our darkness. We could never give more than God has given. In our Gospel reading, we’re reminded that God gave His only Son. It doesn’t matter how many pieces of chocolate you stay away from this Lent, you’re not going to fill up THAT thermometer.
God, who is rich in mercy, because of the great love he had for us (Eph 2:4)… He might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus (Eph 2:7)… It is the gift of God (Eph 2:8)… God so loved the world (John 3:16)… For we are his handiwork (Eph 2:10)…
We are clearly dearly loved. That last one paints such a beautiful picture in my mind… his handiwork. He looks at us, the entire world, with pride. We are his creation. He can’t help but love us. But right after saying that we are his handiwork, he says the reason we were created… For we are his handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for the good works that God has prepared in advance, that we should live in him. (my emphasis) And that’s where we can remember our challenge. What use is a table if you never place anything on it? What use is a guitar if it is never played? What use is an empty refrigerator, wasting energy with no food inside? What use is a human without good works?
God is rich in mercy. He loved the world so much He sent His Son. We are saved by grace. Grace is a gift from God, not earned by works. And yet, we are created for good works. This is our purpose. This is our calling. And all works must come from love. Love of God and love of our neighbor. If we are approaching our good works with the hopes of coloring in that thermometer, let’s take a step back and spend some time in our relationship with God to make sure our works are coming from a place of love. If we’re living our life selfishly, may we be reminded of God’s plan and purpose for us to go and do good works. Or if you, like me, are just plain tired, let’s find some time to sit in His presence this week and be reminded of his overwhelming mercy, love, and grace.
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.
– John 3:16-17