Saved by Grace
(Fourth Sunday of Lent: 2 Chronicles 36: 14-23; Ephesians 2:4-10; John 3:14-21)
Growing up in Nazareth, the Blessed Virgin must have learned the history of her people, the people of God. Remembering what had happened to them because of their infidelity, she came to La Salette to warn her other people, given to her at the foot of the cross, of what was about to happen to them, and for the same reason.
God had compassion on his people, but they ignored his kindness and suffered the consequences. Even then, he did not abandon them altogether. After 70 years of exile, he brought them back to their homeland.
From this point on, they took God’s law very seriously. Although eventually this led to the legalism that we associate with the Scribes and Pharisees, it was nevertheless better than the situation that is described in the first part of today’s reading from 2 Chronicles.
John’s Gospel says that God showed his love for the world by sending Jesus, so that we might have eternal life. This dovetails perfectly with Paul’s words about the richness of God’s mercy and the free gift of salvation.
It also dovetails with the La Salette event. Mary’s words and gentle demeanor, the light that surrounds her, her proximity to the children—everything reflects what John says: “God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that world might be saved through him.”
Even her language about the strong, heavy arm of her Son does not contradict this merciful attitude. Why would she speak in this way, if not to set us on the right path and spare us the punishment we deserve, to shield us from the justice of God? As St. Paul says, even when we were dead in our transgressions, God still had great love for us.
He asks only that we love him back and live accordingly. This is a form of submission—to authority, certainly but, at a deeper level, to grace. Think of the scene of the Annunciation, where Mary, full of grace, says: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done to me according to your word.” The desire to do God’s will makes it easy to submit to it.
This is perhaps what St. Paul means by saying we are created for the good works that God has prepared in advance, that we should live in them.