John 3:16. Many people who can’t cite another scripture passage by chapter and verse recognize this one. We’ve seen signs reading John 3:16 held up by fans at ball games, on billboards and other places. And no wonder: what an incredibly beautiful and comforting line, a line you just want to sit with and savor: “God so loved the world that he have his only-begotten Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.” What greater evidence of God’s incredible love for us than to send the Son to live (and die) among us.
St. Ignatius includes a beautiful contemplation on the Incarnation as part of his Spiritual Exercises. Early in the Second Week of the exercises, he invites us imagine the Holy Trinity looking out over the world. The Holy Trinity knows the whole world of humankind and sees all of the ways human beings are ravaging the earth and making life terrible for one another. Ignatius says “they look down upon the whole surface of the earth and behold all nations in great blindness, going down to death and descending into hell.”
Ignatius invites us to enter into the heart of God as God looks at the world. What goes on in the heart of the Trinity as they look at the darkness of the world? Ignatius invites us to feel the Trinity’s love for humanity and their pain at out suffering. And he invites us to see and hear the Trinity’s response to that pain: how out of that incredible love for humanity, out of God’s infinite and eternal love, God thinks, “Let us save all these people.” And Jesus says, “I’ll go.” And so the Father decides to send the Son down to enter into the world, to become human for the sake of our salvation.
For God so loved the world.