“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” John 3:16
Love is the reason Jesus came to earth. He wanted to bridge the bond between human beings and God; to reconcile the relationship broken at Eden. It is what Jesus wanted for each one of us – that we may be saved by love. Jesus’ passion was a fight for this love. The love that forgives, the love that is merciful. The final battle at the cross was the pinnacle of God’s great love. It became a path that leads to salvation. How amazing and confusing at the same time. That’s why St Paul writes, “we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Corinth 1:23-24). Jesus on the cross – the pinnacle of love is power to those who believe.
“You are precious to me”
Jesus, himself speaks of this great love again and again through parables and analogies. “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11). Through this, Jesus offers life; life in abundance (John 10:10). In the parable of the Good Samaritan Jesus explains his love – a love that overlooks prejudice, law, fear and gore. Jesus speaks of a love that mends and sets right through the Samaritan, who was willing to help a wounded Jew, considered to be an enemy. We might reject God’s love, but he does not reject us. When we are wounded, destroyed and lay completely hopeless as we walk away from him, he cannot just pass us by. He gave a glimpse of this love during the Last Supper. While being surrounded by his future betrayer and men whom he knew were going to desert him, Jesus, the Son of God, washed their feet. Jesus foresaw their sin and wounds and set to reassure them of his love. And just asked one thing in return, “Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another” (John 13:34). The nature and attribute for God’s love for human beings is mind-blowing. In Jesus’ prayer for the disciples, he says, “As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us” (John 17: 21). That is the kind of love that God has kept in store for us. Paul writes, “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us” (Romans 5:5). Jesus wants us to share in the relationship of the Trinity. He wants us to partake of the divine love – pure and complete; perfect and overflowing.
“Love one another as I have loved you”
There is a second part of this love that Jesus reiterates too. When he took on the water to wash his disciples’ feet, Jesus said “Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another” (John 13:34). We are called to share the divine love that we are freely given. This is one of the most important purposes of life. St John Paul II writes that this life on earth is “to be preserved with a sense of responsibility and brought to perfection in love and in the gift of ourselves to God and to our brothers and sisters.” The kind of love that Jesus shares with us is pure and perfect love. In our life on earth, he wants each one of us to share this love with every person, even our enemies. “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:34). This teaching continues to baffle many even today. Even as Jesus was willing to give up his life for his sheep on the cross, he said, “Father forgive them for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). Jesus was willing to give his life up for those who put him through the ordeal of the scourging and shameful death. This dynamic change in human thinking is only possible through love. When we are open to receive the abundant love that God has in store for us, we too can’t hold back the unconditional love. Then we overlook our feelings, prejudices and wounds to look at other human beings, even at those who harm us, and see that they also are God’s children.
Saints on Divine Love
Jesus teaches us about this love as he leads by example, going to the extreme degrees to save us and teach us the meaning of true love. All the saints who understood this great love of God, urge us to understand, reflect and practise this virtue. St John who remained with Jesus throughout his ministry on earth writes, “Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God” (1 John 4:7). As Jesus pointed out to his disciples that love is the true mark of a follower, John reiterates, that it is by this love that we become the children of God. St Paul, once a great Pharisee and a strict follower of the Jewish law writes, “Love does no wrong to a neighbour; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law” (Romans 13:10). St Therese of Lisieux, Doctor of the Church emphasises on the importance of love that drives a good act rather than the act itself, “Our Lord does not so much look at the greatness of our actions, or even at their difficulty, as at the love with which we do them.” In this world, where we are often driven by ambition, we must remember that as followers of Christ, we must be driven by love. That is the new covenant which Jesus promises us, the covenant of love. It is no longer the deeds that fulfil the law, but love. It is through love that God called us to be his children. This assurance and through this divine love we are called to operate in all our relationships and activities of life.