John 3:16 unfolds the expression of God’s divine love


By Fr. Dale Mallory
For The Catholic Messenger

In our Gospel reading for the fourth Sunday of Lent, we see the well-known verse, “For 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.” This verse is famous, not just because it appears on billboards, football helmets or the bottom of Chick-fil-A cups, but because it perfectly encapsulates the essence of the Catholic faith.

The opening phrase, “For God so loved the world,” lays the foundation for the entire message, emphasizing the universality of divine love. God’s love is not confined to a select few righteous persons or a chosen people but extends to all of humanity, transcending all barriers of time and human division. It is a love that surpasses human comprehension, a selfless love that seeks the well-being of every individual and gives all an equal opportunity of receiving its gifts.

Our verse further unfolds with the expression of this divine love through the sacrifice of Christ, the only begotten Son of God. This love for humanity is so great, so complete in its power that the Father willing sends his Son into the world and the Son lovingly responds by humbling himself and taking on a human nature. The Son even takes on human indignity and allows himself to suffer a criminal’s death — not because of anything that he needs — but so that through his sacrifice, our human nature itself is purified of original sin. We receive the opportunity of eternal life.


Having offered us his love through the Son’s sacrifice, God then gives us a simple and clear way to receive that love: through the power of faith. By giving our spiritual assent to Christ and receiving the outward signs of the sacrament of baptism, we are bonded indelibly to the resurrected and eternally alive body of Christ. Through this covenant bond, we receive the graces of God that we need to survive in this world and preserve the new life given to us. We go from facing the future alone and without hope to striving for a future in which we are not merely redeemed but elevated to heights even higher than that of angels.

We capture all of this and more in a single verse, John 3:16. It challenges us to ponder the depth of God’s love and the significance of the sacrificial gift of his Son. It prompts us to have faith in the assurance of life beyond the material world around us. Finally, it asks us to see the truths of our faith not just as slogans or catchy phrases but as divine revelations meant to bring us ever closer to God and to our eternal destiny with him.

(Father Dale Mallory is parochial vicar of St. Mary of the Visitation and St. Patrick Parishes in Ottumwa and St. Mary Magdalen in Bloomfield.)

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