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Friends, today’s Gospel gives us the famous assurance that God gave his Son that we might have eternal life.

There is a terrible interpretation of the cross that holds the view that the bloody sacrifice of the Son on the cross was “satisfying” to the Father, an appeasement of a God infinitely angry at sinful humanity. In this reading, the crucified Jesus is like a child hurled into the fiery mouth of a pagan divinity in order to assuage its wrath.

What eloquently gives the lie to this awful interpretation is today’s passage, which is often proposed as a summary of the Christian message. God the Father is not some pathetic divinity whose bruised honor needs to be restored; rather, God is a parent who burns with compassion for his children who have wandered into danger. It is not out of anger or vengeance that the Father sends the Son but precisely out of love. 

Does the Father hate sinners? No, but he hates sin. Does God harbor indignation at the unjust? No, but God despises injustice. Thus God sends his Son not gleefully to see him suffer but to set things right.