Fourth Sunday of Lent – Gospel reading John 3:14-21
“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.”
Our salvation is not just something we experience at the end of our lives. The gift of eternal life saves us right now as well, through the impact it has on our experience of life and love. The Gospels are rich with examples of people who accepted this gift as an invitation to live free and love without fear. The sinful woman who loved much, Zacchaeus the tax collector who changed his life, the persistent woman who was so determined to heal her daughter that she changed Jesus’ mind. “Your faith has saved you” and “How great is your faith,” Jesus told them. As pioneers of faith, they believed in him and trusted that following Jesus would lead to a better life – a community of love and mercy, a life of complete freedom. And they understood that faith was more than just believing – they took their faith and transformed it into service and love.
These are the people who influenced Jesus himself; the imperfect, fallible men and women who he specifically pointed out as examples of salvation to others. The people who heard his invitation to a new life; the people who said yes; the people who were not afraid to change.
Their stories are astounding yet ordinary. Amazing yet real. And exploring them allows us to expand our understanding of what it means to be saved. Time and time again, we see throughout the Gospels that when Jesus told someone they were saved, it was immediately after they had been released from disease, spiritual blindness, attachment to sin, or other struggle that had previously held them back in chains. Jesus did not give up on these men and women. In spite of their shortcomings, he saw their potential. And he gave them what they needed to be free. When they changed the direction of their lives, Jesus knew that the story of their salvation had begun.
These stories of salvation are an inspiration and an invitation to us all to live more faithfully and love more boldly. And as we continue along on our Lenten journey, there is no better time than now to reflect on whether or not we are embracing our salvation in the way we are living our lives right now.
“Living like we are saved” requires nurturing specific qualities within ourselves – the very same qualities that Jesus admired in the people he encountered. Are we people who love God and others with our whole heart, mind and soul? Are we speaking up for the truth and boldly witnessing our faith? Are we mindfully grateful for our blessings? Are we quick to forgive? Are we listening to God and saying yes to the changes he wants us to make? Are we using our unique gifts to generously serve others? How can we share God’s love with others in our daily lives?