We’ve all seen him. The crazy guy at a football game wearing a rainbow wig and holding the John 3:16 sign. Why he picked that particular passage, or why he figured the rainbow wig was the right “hook” to spread the Gospel, only God knows.
And John 3:16 is such a random passage to be reminded of at a football game, anyway: “That 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.”
You’d think the proper Biblical passage
at a football game would be something more inspirational like, “I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race,” (2 Timothy 4:7).
Or at least something about winning, like, “And the victory that has conquered the world is our faith” (1 John 5:4).
But instead, we’ve got John 3:16.
The gift that keeps on giving
The Gospel reading for the Fourth Sunday of Lent is, sans
rainbow wig, John 3:16. And our second
reading keeps in this spirit of giving, as well:
“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not from you; it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8).
The timing of these readings is a real wake-up call, too. Because here we are, more than 4 weeks into Lent. We’re fasting, we’re praying, we’re giving alms. And in the midst of all the stuff we’re doing for Lent, the Church interrupts our regularly scheduled program with the following announcement:
Guess what? Salvation is a gift; it’s not something we earn. So all that stuff we’re doing in Lent? Well, it’s nice and all. But God is calling us to have deeper faith. It is our faith that saves us. Not the number of burgers we give up.
Do as I say, not as I do
We Catholics loooove doing stuff. Or, as it were in Lent, not doing stuff. And I’ll admit that half the time I get more caught up in the doing and un-doing that I barely have time to remember the faith which is supposed to be guiding me in the first place.
Thinking that salvation is just a free gift…that’s almost tough to believe. Most of us were raised in a society that taught us to be cynical, that taught us there are no free lunches. And yet, here’s God saying: “Yep, it’s free. Nothing you can do to earn it. Just accept it and enjoy.”
That God would send His Son for us in spite of our sins. In spite of our weaknesses. And the fact that we can’t do anything in return for that love. I’ve always wondered what my life would be like if I could really take those words to heart. To get rid of my cynicism, even my insecurities, and could really accept it.
Is that possible? Does God really mean it? Is salvation truly a free gift of faith?
And if so, it’d be helpful if He gave us a more credible spokesmen than the guy with the rainbow wig…