St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians states clearly that we are God’s
handiwork. We know also from other parts of Scripture that we are made in the image and likeness of God, and He has written His law within our hearts. But the other Scriptures for the Fourth Sunday of Lent remind us that we are capable of good and evil, and each of those choices has its consequences.
The Gospel of John reminds us that wicked works in our lives lead us to want to hide in the darkness, so that our wickedness is not exposed. Most of us have had or do have special groups in our lives that we know will accept our wicked ways. We know who will be willing to listen to our prejudiced stories or be willing to join in our hateful speech. We know who we want in our company when we choose to do something evil. During this time of Lent, it might be good to acknowledge who that person or group of people are in our lives. We may want to label our choice to be with them as a near occasion of sin. Instead of acting surprised about how we act in that group, isn’t it time that we grow up and admit that we know where to go and who to be with when we want to be evil?
We also have those people in our lives who we know will not accept any less than our best. It doesn’t mean that we have to be perfect in their presence but we know that they and we are better together. We encourage each other to act in righteous and holy ways. This is also that wonderful group of people in our lives with whom we can be vulnerable. They will not take advantage of our weaknesses nor use our weaknesses to manipulate us. They will not take responsibility for our actions but will encourage us to move in the right direction. With them we are encouraged to live our lives in the light and not in the dark.
John 3:16, from the Gospel on the Fourth Sunday of Lent, can be seen on banners and T-shirts at sporting events and other public gatherings. “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.” This verse from Scripture is meant as an encouragement for us, a bright light in the midst of each of our lives. As we acknowledge our own sins and our own good works, we know that this incredible gift of love has already been given to us. This proclamation of God’s love is meant to free us so that we can live our lives more deeply in the light. This reassurance and gift from God cannot free us unless we believe it. Do you believe that this gift has been given to you? Do you believe that you are made in the image and likeness of God? Do you believe that you are God’s handiwork, His work of art? Do you believe that you have been created for light and not darkness? Don’t just skip over these questions because you’ve heard them before or you gave them some sort of superficial answer in the past. Stop and answer them for real! Who do you belong to? Who will never abandon you? Who holds you in the palm of His hand? Answer these questions as if your life depends on those answers, because it does. You can live your whole life in fear and anxiety if you choose not to believe what God has already done for you out of love.
Living with the consequences of our sins and wickedness is tough, especially if we’re trying to repent and believe in the Gospel. But we must. The consequences are not punishment but the fruit that comes from our choices. So many of our good works can flow from our lives as we live with the consequences of the past. We are so deeply aware of our own personal sin, the sins of our community in the Church and in the world, and the sins within our own families, friendships and relationships. How we seek forgiveness, how we give forgiveness to others, how we heal the brokenness and division that is within us and around us and how we live with the mistrust that exists because of our choices in the past can reveal so much of the healing power of love that comes with repentance and renewal. Try not to run from the consequences of your past evil choices but choose to be the healing power of love as those consequences give way to light and goodness. This is the hope on which we stand, and it is the reason we look forward to Easter.
Father Wester is pastor of All Saints Parish in St. Peters.