We may not have adverted to it, but there’s been a very clear pattern in our Scripture lessons over the last three weeks, especially. As usual, the first week of Lent we reflected on Jesus and the temptations in the desert. The second week on his transfiguration when God declared, “This is my Son, my beloved, in whom I am well pleased.” But then on the third Sunday we began to hear, in a very powerful way, the message that is the most important one for us to absorb and really take into our mind, but most of all, into our spirit, to experience — that God loves us. God loves us because God is love.
The pope, this year for Lent, published his book, The Name of God is Mercy. Compassion, love — that’s God. That love is poured forth upon us to draw us into existence, to be with us every instance of our lives, to heal us when we’re broken, to comfort us when we need that. God is always loving us. Think back for a moment to the Gospel that third Sunday where Jesus compares God to a gardener, one who is taking care of the plants.
The owner of the field said, “That particular plant has not given any fruit. Get rid of it.” He was looking only for profit. He wanted a different plant that would bear fruit. But the gardener, who images God for us, says, “No. Let me tend it for another year, fertilize it, nurture it, and it will bear fruit.” God loves that plant. That’s a symbol of how God loves us. Last Sunday, you remember because it’s such a vivid story about the two sons — the one who goes off and squanders all his inheritance, comes back, ready to be a slave in his father’s house.
Do you remember the image of the father going out looking for him? He must have been going every day because he loved him. He was just trying to draw him back. Finally, he sees him coming and he runs out to greet him. Then he calls for a feast to celebrate the return of his son who was dead, and was raised from the dead, and he’s come back...