16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.
John 3:16–18 ESV – For God So Loved the World – “For God – Bible Gateway
This is a verse so famous that even most Catholics can cite it chapter and verse. 😁
These three verses are so theological rich. They encapsulate Jesus’ role as savior and the reason that God the Father sent him. Showing also how our response has consequences that ultimately can not be ignored. That we need to respond to the love initiated by the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It should be easy to dwell on verse 16 and respond in love. If only our egos didn’t rise in rebellion to this greatest good of all.
From the Ignatius Catholic Study Bible:
The earthly mission of Jesus is part of the heavenly plan of the Father, who displays the depth of his love through the sacrifice of his Son (Rom 5:8; 1 Jn 3:16; CCC 219). This verse marks a transition from the dialogue between Jesus and Nicodemus (3:1–15) to an extended monologue by either Jesus or the evangelist himself (3:16–21). eternal life: The expression refers both to the divine quality of new life in Christ as well as its duration. We receive this gift already on earth in the hope that we will possess it irrevocably in heaven (10:10; 1 Jn 5:13).
Peter Kreeft comments on an important aspect of the Trinity:
That’s the nature of the Trinity. God is a Trinity because “God is love.” Love itself is Trinitarian: for love to happen, there must be a lover, a beloved, and a loving relationship between the two persons, whether human or divine. And in God, that relationship is so real that it is itself a third eternal person. If God were not a Trinity, God could not be self-giving love because there would be no other selves to give himself to until he created us. And that’s impossible because God’s eternal nature can’t be dependent on our existence.
John Bergsma also amplifies this:
Love is the essence of the Trinity. The Trinity tells us that God is not a monopersonal individual who had only himself to love before creatures were made. Self-love is an imperfect form of love. Therefore, God would have needed creatures to love in order to achieve perfection of love. God would have been imperfect in himself.
God is love is reality and not some abstract label we assign to the concept of God. This was revealed to us progressively through both Testaments of the Bible. Even the Greek philosophers that were open that there is one God who holds existence in himself, did not make the move to a God that loves us intensely. An impersonal God was what they found through natural philosophy.
Continuing with Dr. Bergsma:
In other words, the reason we exist is to enter into the life and love of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit for all eternity. So it’s fitting that at the beginning of every Mass, the priest has the option of taking the trinitarian greeting of Paul and proclaiming it and inviting us into that mystery. Because that’s really what every Mass is. It isn’t just the recapitulation and representation of Calvary. It is certainly that. It isn’t just the celebration of the Eucharist…although it’s certainly that. Every single Mass is a trinitarian mystery, and we’re being invited into the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God the Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit.
This love requires a response of faith as noted in the Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture on this Gospel passage:
Having set forth Jesus’ teaching about eternal life, which his cross makes available and into which believers are born by the Spirit’s action, the Evangelist now penetrates to the heart of this Gospel’s message: 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. The Father’s love for the world leads him to give his only Son, his all, for the world’s salvation. The world is under condemnation and in spiritual darkness on account of sin, but the Father does not want any to perish (see 2 Pet 3:9). Hence he gives his Son so that the world might be saved through him. The gift of salvation, which the Father offers us all through Jesus, is eternal life: a participation in the divine life of the Trinity. We accept this gift through faith in Jesus. Faith is yielding to the action of the Spirit, who first moves a person to assent to what God has revealed and to commit one’s whole life to God. As Jesus will later tell a crowd, faith is our consenting to and cooperating with God’s work in us: “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him” (6:44).
There are of a couple things that Catholics might bring to mind if asked about the central mystery of the Christian faith. The answer Catechism gives might surprise them.
234 The mystery of the Most Holy Trinity is the central mystery of Christian faith and life. It is the mystery of God in himself. It is therefore the source of all the other mysteries of faith, the light that enlightens them. It is the most fundamental and essential teaching in the “hierarchy of the truths of faith.” The whole history of salvation is identical with the history of the way and the means by which the one true God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, reveals himself to men “and reconciles and unites with himself those who turn away from sin.”
There is good reason that John 3:16 gets quoted and is a favorite verse of many. In the second half of John 3:18, we don’t want to think about when our response to this Trinitarian love is less than adequate.
St. John Chrysostom. Because however He says this, slothful men in the multitude of their sins, and excess of carelessness, abuse God’s mercy, and say, There is no hell, no punishment; God remits us all our sins. But let us remember, that there are two advents of Christ; one past, the other to come. The former was, not to judge but to pardon us: the latter will be, not to pardon but to judge us. It is of the former that He says, I have not come to judge the world. Because He is merciful, instead of judgment, He grants an internal remission of all sins by baptism; and even after baptism opens to us the door of repentance, which had He not done all had been lost; for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God. (Rom. 3:23) Afterwards, however, there follows something about the punishment of unbelievers, to warn us against flattering ourselves that we can sin with impunity. Of the unbeliever He says, ‘he is judged already.’—But first He says, He that believeth on Him is not judged. He who believeth, He says, not who enquires. But what if his life be impure? Paul very strongly declares that such are not believers: They confess, he says, that they know God, but in works deny Him. (Tit. 1:16) That is to say, Such will not be judged for their belief, but will receive a heavy punishment for their works, though unbelief will not be charged against them.
St. John Paul II in Redemptor Hominis wrote:
Man cannot live without love. He remains a being that is incomprehensible for himself, his life is senseless, if love is not revealed to him, if he does not encounter love, if he does not experience it and make it his own, if he does not participate intimately in it. This, as has already been said, is why Christ the Redeemer “fully reveals man to himself”. If we may use the expression, this is the human dimension of the mystery of the Redemption. In this dimension man finds again the greatness, dignity and value that belong to his humanity. In the mystery of the Redemption man becomes newly “expressed” and, in a way, is newly created. He is newly created! “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus”. The man who wishes to understand himself thoroughly-and not just in accordance with immediate, partial, often superficial, and even illusory standards and measures of his being-he must with his unrest, uncertainty and even his weakness and sinfulness, with his life and death, draw near to Christ. He must, so to speak, enter into him with all his own self, he must “appropriate” and assimilate the whole of the reality of the Incarnation and Redemption in order to find himself. If this profound process takes place within him, he then bears fruit not only of adoration of God but also of deep wonder at himself. How precious must man be in the eyes of the Creator, if he “gained so great a Redeemer”, and if God “gave his only Son ”in order that man “should not perish but have eternal life”.
… Unceasingly contemplating the whole of Christ’s mystery, the Church knows with all the certainty of faith that the Redemption that took place through the Cross has definitively restored his dignity to man and given back meaning to his life in the world, a meaning that was lost to a considerable extent because of sin. And for that reason, the Redemption was accomplished in the paschal mystery, leading through the Cross and death to Resurrection.
- The Ignatius Catholic Study Bible꞉ The New Testament
- Peter Kreeft, Food for the Soul: Reflections on the Mass Readings Cycle A
- The Word of the Lord: Reflections on the Sunday Mass Readings for Year A – John Bergsma
- The Gospel of John (Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture)
- Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Edition
- Redemptor Hominis (4 March 1979) | John Paul II
- Photo by Ben White on Unsplash
- Ignatius Catholic Study Bible: New Testament ↩
- Peter Kreeft, Food for the Soul: Reflections on the Mass Readings Cycle A ↩
- The Word of the Lord: Reflections on the Sunday Mass Readings for Year A, John Bergsma ↩
- ibid ↩
- Francis Martin, William M. Wright IV, The Gospel of John (Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture) ↩
- Catholic Church. (2000). Catechism of the Catholic Church (2nd Ed). United States Catholic Conference. ↩
- St. John Chrysostom, Abp. of Constantinople, A.D.398. (Hom. xxviii. 1.) ↩
- Encylical letter “Redemptor Hominus”, Pope John Paul II, March 4, 1979 ↩