As I write, we have entered into Holy Week, the week of salvation, the week of love.
Love is the reason for everything we see in these days leading up to Jesus’ passion, crucifixion, death, and resurrection.
God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so believing in him we will not perish. We understand these beautiful words from the Gospel.
But Jesus died not only for “the world.” He died for you and for me, for each and every person who ever lived and every person who is yet to be born.
God’s love is personal. We can each say, as Saint Paul did, “I live by faith in the Son of God who has loved me and given himself up for me.”
It is an ancient devotion to read the Passion stories in each of the Gospels during Holy Week. I encourage you to do it.
It is important to remember when we read — it was all for love; every word and gesture, all the humiliation and suffering.
In these columns during Lent, I have been trying to read the Gospels with more prayer and more “intentionality” — really being conscious of how the Gospels are meant to be “transformative” and to form us more and more in the likeness of Christ.
The imitation of Christ is the way of the saints, and we are all called to be saints.
We understand what this means when we read Christ’s words and the stories of his life. In the pages of the Gospel it is clear that we are called to imitate his humility and compassion, his zeal for saving souls, his servant’s heart. We can see that, like him, we are called to be a good friend to others and men and women of prayer.
We should not forget that Jesus is still teaching and guiding us from the cross and in his passion. In fact, Paul said that in his death on the cross, we can see the mind of Christ, his whole attitude.
We need to let Jesus look down upon us from the cross. We need to raise our eyes above ourselves, to feel his gaze. It is all love, it is all compassion. When we see ourselves reflected in Christ’s eyes, we understand in the most personal way that he knew us and loved us even before we were created. We need to let ourselves be loved by him, lift up our hearts to accept his mercy.
For love, Jesus died for you and for me on the cross. He asks us to live our lives as a response to his death. He asks us to live for him, as he died for us — out of love.
We have all heard Paul’s litany in praise of love: “Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous. ...” This is one of the most popular readings at weddings, and many families have Paul’s words framed in their home — a beautiful reminder of how they want to live.
But as Paul reminds us, our human love is meant to be a mirror of the love that we are shown in Jesus.
In Christ’s passion and death, we see love that is patient and kind, love that bears all things and endures all things. On the cross, we see love that never fails, love so strong not even death can defeat it.
When we see human love, we see the Trinity, Saint Augustine told us. God is love and we are created in his image. We are made out of love and we are made for the sake of love.
That is why love is Christ’s new commandment, and he makes his love the measure and pattern for our love.
There is no greater love than a life broken and shared and given for others. Jesus laid down his life even for those who did not love him in return. He loved us with no limit, and he loved us until the end.
This is the love that he calls us to, as Paul teaches: “Be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love as Christ loved us and handed himself over for us as a sacrificial offering to God.”
Christian love is always sacrificial; we love as we have been loved. We give our lives for the love of God — as he gave his life out of love for us.
Pray for me this week and I will pray for you. I wish all of you and your families and loved ones all the joy of Easter.
May our Blessed Mother Mary, who stood at the foot of the cross and witnessed his resurrection, help us to see that love is the reason for Jesus and love is the reason for our lives.
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