For God So Loved

Growing up in a Hindu family, I went to the temple once or twice a year and was perplexed by the large idols I saw there. They loomed silently over the people like alien figures, expressionless and unfeeling. The silence I felt there was deafening.

In stark contrast, the Cross stands like an exclamation point in history, overflowing with meaning to all who dare to look. It has never been silent or indifferent, but a sign—indeed a whole reality—declaring the depth and breadth of God’s love. Yet how?

The Crucifix

I keep a crucifix in my prayer corner at home, and whenever my one-year-old son ventures upstairs, he always grabs hold of it. Lately, he has drawn my parents, who are Hindus, into my prayer corner, and they have had to put the crucifix back in its place each time he grabs it. How fitting, I reflected, that a child would lead them into this space where they would have to look upon this icon of our faith, indeed, even to hold it.

The Cross is a haunting and astonishing sign without parallel in history. Nowhere else in the world religions will you find such an icon: God’s Son, God Himself dying upon a Cross and raised up for all to see. Through the centuries, we have numbed ourselves to its expressive power—believers and nonbelievers alike—yet the sight of it should startle us, make us shudder with grief, and for those of us who believe, make us long to receive the gift of love from this God willing to die for even one of us.

For God So Loved

Today’s Gospel passage offers us the most well-known verse in any religion, perhaps the one line of text that resounds throughout the world. We all know it; yet do we really know it? Let the words sink into your ears afresh today. St. John tells us, For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son

What strikes me as I ponder this verse today is that little word so. We are told not simply that God loved, but more tangibly and concretely, as a matter of proof, He so loved. How much was that love? How can we know it to be true? Could one even measure it? It was so much, so reckless and passionate, that He gave up His Son on the Cross out of love for us. It is as if God takes us by the shoulders and gazes at us, asking, “Do you have any idea how much I love you?” For God so loved.

Lifted Up

How can we fail to trust His love for us, when we see it standing so plainly before us? As Dostoevsky keenly observed, “Love in action is a harsh and dreadful thing.” Such is the Cross. This is the total, radical love of God who pours Himself out, holding nothing back, even for the sake of one soul—even if that soul rejects Him. For this reason, too, Jesus allows himself to be lifted up on the Cross so that all may see Him and believe. He did not die a private death, but gave Himself over to a public sacrifice, raised up to view for all to look at. With arms stretched out on the cross, He draws all the world to Himself.

Today, I invite you to take to prayer that little word so in the verse of John 3:16. Gaze upon the crucifix and recognize that it signifies not simply any love, but a love willing to throw everything else away for your sake. For God so loved you.

[Readings: 1 Sm 16:1b, 6-7, 10-13a; Eph 5:8-14; Jn 9:1-41]

Radhika Sharda, MD

Radhika Sharda is a practicing physician and a convert to the Catholic faith from a Hindu background. She has written a book of essays on literature, Savour, which may be found on Amazon. She lives in Raleigh, NC, with her three young boys.

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