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4th Sunday of Lent B

There is only one direction most people want to go in their lives, and that is, upward. People want to be rich and famous and influential. In the rat race of life, people don’t want to go around in circles. We want to go up.

There is nothing wrong with this. Ambition is a positive indication of the constant drive for growth. At an early age, we are taught to aspire for higher goals. Society inspires us to dream that our lot may be better. God smiles at our noble dreams and blesses our honest efforts.

This Lent, as we slowly discover our human nature, its potentials and its perils, we also steadily take a glimpse of the movements of God’s heart. What direction does God follow? Where does God go?

If we humans want to go up, it is surprising to realize that God goes down! His movement takes him on a journey downward. The desires of his heart pull him not to dream high but to dream low. Don’t get me wrong here. I do not mean that God does not excel, for in fact he is perfection, the fullness of good.

But John’s gospel today makes it clear that in God there is profound humility that does not seek personal glory but seeks connection with those who are weak and in need. “He gave his only Son” (3:16) and “God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world” (3:17) – these words describe the movement of God, what some people call “downward mobility.”

These point to the fact that when God wished to express his love, God undertook a journey that brought him low. First, God became man. In Jesus, the Father’s love took on a human face – a God easily understood, a God within reach. Then Jesus, not satisfied with his identification with us, went even further downward when he died on the cross. His love was proven even in the most debased situation imaginable for all times.

What person would want to go down, even going so low? Only one who truly loves defies the natural tendency to strive for the highest place. Even we, at times, witness people who forsake the chance to be exalted just to manifest their love. “For God so loved the world he gave his only Son.” He sent his Son “that the world might be saved.” The key therefore, to understand God today, in Lent, is to appreciate his real intention – it is love.

But the greatest mystery is this: when God followed the downward path, it was then that his glory shone. His great gesture of openness, generosity and humility casts light on our lives and inspires us to follow this road less travelled.

There is another mystery. The gospel says: “people preferred darkness to light.” This love is still misunderstood, unappreciated, unreciprocated because people close their hearts to its stirring message. This Lent, before the God who goes down to reach out to us and forsakes his own pleasure to save us, will you allow yourself to bathe in his light or will you persist in the darkness of your mind?