Msgr. Joseph A. Pellegrino
Fourth Sunday of Lent: God’s Handiwork
Today’s second reading, from Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians, concludes with the statement “We are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for the good works that God has prepared in advance that we should live in them.”
Let’s begin by focusing on that word, handiwork. Sadly, handiwork is hard to come by these days. How many things do we own that we can say are not the result of mechanization or computerization? There are many good and valid reasons for the way materials are produced. 3d printers can produce precise medical devices. But with that understood, how many items do we own that have been carefully crafted by someone’s hands? Whatever we do own that which is in fact handiwork is most likely very expensive. It is also unique. In the chapel at Guardian Angel’s School we have a hand carved woodwork statue of a guardian angel. A friend of mine was visiting a woodworking studio and shop in Northern Italy when he saw the statue and said that he would like to buy it for the school. The owner said that it was not for sale. It had been in his family for many years, carved by one of his ancestors. My friend was not to be denied. He offered what I can only guess was an exorbitant amount of money and had the statue delivered to me for Guardian Angles. If you have children in the school, or if you go to the school or have graduated from GA, I am referring to the statue that is on a pedestal behind the chapel’s altar. Now what made that statue so expensive? It wasn’t the material used, the particular wood it was carved from. It was expensive because it was carefully hand-crafted. When we look at the statue, we see not just the Guardian Angel, we see the hand of the master who spent many, many
hours in his wood shop making the statue.
We are God’s handiwork. Like the statue, each of us was painstakingly created by God. Like the statue, we manifest the work of the artist. We do this those times that we are true to our very being, those times that we are sons and daughters of God. Like the statue we were each created to bring beauty to the world, His Beauty. Like the statue we can proclaim to the world, “If you think that I am special, think of how special the One is who created me.”
It is easy for us to forget our unique beauty. After all, the latest estimate of the population of the world is 7.6 billion people. Each of us is just one of billions. But just as the sculptor did not view the statue as merely one of his many works, God does not see each of us as just one of his works. He sees each of us as his unique creation.
But we are not statues. We are living beings endowed with a free will and able to choose to love God or to reject Him and throw ourselves into living for temporal goods. We have the ability to act as though we are not special to God, as though we are just one of the 7.6 billion. The people that the Chronicler refers to in today’s first reading did just that. They turned from God and turned to the immorality of the pagan world around them. As a result they suffered exile in Babylon. Still, God did not forget how beautiful His creation could be. After seventy years, He delivered them from captivity using the hand of Cyrus, King of Persia. They didn’t earn their freedom. It was restored to them by God.
St. Paul reminds us that we did not earn a Savior. It was by God’s Grace that we have been saved. And what a Savior he has given us! Jesus Christ saw our beauty with His Father’s eyes, and delivered us from the darkness of sin, from the emptiness of materialism, and from hatred and grasp of the devil. God so loved the world that he gave his only son so that everyone who believes in Him might have eternal life. Jesus did not come to condemn the world, John 3, today’s Gospel tells us. The Father sent Him to save the work of his hands. He came to save us, God’s handiwork. But we have to choose the way of the Lord. That is the way of Light. Any other choice is the way of darkness. There are many who prefer darkness over light. There are many who choose the way of selfishness over love. There are many who join in the pagan immorality of the world. Those who do so condemn themselves to empty lives, condemn themselves to darkness. We cannot do that. We will not do that. We move towards the light that is the Way of the Lord.
The Fourth Sunday of Lent is called Laetare Sunday. The word laetare means more than joy, it means to be light-hearted. Even though we are facing the heavy days of the commemoration of the passion and death of the Lord, Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion and Good Friday are less then three weeks away, still we are light-hearted because we know what Jesus has done for us. He has embraced death so we can have life. He has won for us eternal life. “Lift up your hearts,” the priest instructs in the prayers of the preface recited just before the Eucharistic Prayer. “We have lifted them up to the Lord,” we all respond. We are light-hearted because we know to whom we belong. We belong to the Lord. We are God’s handiwork.
The next time we look into the mirror and see a blemish on our faces, or a new chin that seems to be emerging, or yet another wrinkle, we need to think about what God sees. He sees someone He painstakingly sculptured. You and I need to remind ourselves daily, we are special. We are loved. We have dignity. We are the work of God’s hands.
I will give thanks to you, for I am fearfully, wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works. My soul knows this very well. Psalm 139:14