Gifts I-John 3:16
"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. (John 3: 16)
My dear brothers and sisters in the Lord Jesus Christ,
I always knew in my heart that the true Gift in this life is its source: God our Heavenly Father, the Creator and maker of all. However, It remained so complex in my mind and in my heart how to distinguish God is the source of Life, and Jesus as the Life of all men. Until you read the verse above one more time, you may fall under the same difficulty of perception and comprehension as I did. Looking at the Gospel of saint John, which I encourage you all to read it over and over, one can see as if we are reading a story of love. The perfect love, not only the love of the “Eros” (love in the flesh), or the “Adelphos” (brotherly love), or the “Agape” (the free love to the other until self offering), but more so the “Caritas”: the perfect love of giving, self giving, self denial, self renunciation of all things including oneself in order to save and to simply love the other. “Deos Caritas Est” God is love. This means God is the Gift.
It is a grace to see that life from God comes a gift to all people. Grace is the key to understand our responsibility towards life, our place in it and our role for it to continue.
Where am I heading with all of this? Life as a gift has been destined to us. But Life is a grace that could be taken away from us if we don’t value the gift enough.
About two weeks ago I was invited to speak at the priests’ convocation of the archdiocese of Denver Colorado. It was in Estes Park. Dr. Tim Grey, the president of the Augustinian Institute was the main speaker of the week. He was talking to us about grace, caritas, indulgences and why the money is part of the gifts that God enabled on earth in order for God to continue doing good things in creation through the means of the labor of our hands.
One of his key talks included the following thoughts which all happen to be in the context of salvation through Jesus Christ being the gift of God the Father to us his people.
He says that the reading about grace sometimes makes us not want to work for our salvation since it comes to us as a "free gift". The various readings from St. Paul about grace sometimes makes us, like Martin Luther, not want to work for our salvation since it comes to us as a "free gift". St. Paul teaches us the understanding of salvation as gift (“Charis” in Greek) in his writings to the Romans and Corinthians.
For instance, in Romans, 5: 12- 14, we find with Paul the text, the context and the meaning of the Gift related to salvation. Paul states:
“Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned-- for until the Law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come.”
This gift releases us from the law: in the new Covenant the "grace" replaces the law and frees us from its burden. Therefore, it is God’s saving gift to his people.
For Paul continues in Romans 5:15- 16:
“But the free gift is not like the transgression. For if by the transgression of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many.
The gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned; for on the one hand the judgment arose from one transgression resulting in condemnation, but on the other hand the free gift arose from many transgressions resulting in justification”.
Marcion of Sinope (85 AD to 160 AD), one of the early Christian writers who refuses that Jesus Christ is the Son of God of the Old Testament due to the “War qualities” of God of the Old Testament, looks at the distinction between salvation through the law and salvation through grace and concludes that the God of the Old Testament is different from the God of the New Testament.
For Martin Luther, Jesus dies for us and pays the debt on our behalf. This isn’t far from the thoughts of Marcion of Sinope, but Jesus’ death on the Cross does not come about to alter God's anger against sinful humanity.
Jesus dies on the Cross because God so loved the world that He offered his only Son to die on the Cross. Jesus shows us that God is always a God of love and mercy. So in this regard, Martin Luther and Marcion commit similar mistakes, when they depict a God of anger versus Christ who purchases God's anger through his death on the Cross.
Christ is the love of God the Father to our sinful humanity.
Today, we celebrate the first Sunday of May. A Day that according to our Maronite Catholic and Eastern Tradition is consecrated to Our Lady of Lebanon, the Mother of God, Mary the Virgin.
I invite us in this Marian holy month, to come together in order to understand better the amazing grace of salvation that gave to us as a gift from the Incarnate Word of God who became man without blemish, in the womb of the Virgin, who resembled us in all things expect in sin. Who made himself sin for us He who knew no sin, in order to redeem us all from sin by giving us the full adoption back to be called the Children of God the Father, in the redemption of Christ Jesus who adopted us in the Holy Spirit to be His mystical body who calls ABBA, Father.
Fr. Andre Mahanna