April 7, 2010 // Uncategorized


Today, as we begin Holy Week, let us remember the words of Jesus: “Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another” (John 13:34). We just heard the story of the passion and death of Jesus from the Gospel of Saint Luke. In the account of our Lord’s passion and death, we learn how Jesus has loved us. In the cross of Jesus, we see the depths of God’s love for us. There is no greater event of love in human history than the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, the manifestation of God’s total and perfect love for us. In the words of Saint Paul, “God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

Each one of us can say in the words of Saint Paul: “Christ loved me and gave himself up for me” (cf. Ephesians 5:2). We have been redeemed by his precious blood. “Each of us is loved personally by Him with a passionate and faithful love, a love without limits” (Pope Benedict XVI).

The story of the Passion begins with the Last Supper when Jesus gives us the amazing gift of the Holy Eucharist, His very Body and Blood. So much does He love us that He desired to leave us this great sacrament so that we can share in His sacrifice and be strengthened by this spiritual food in our journey through life. So much does He love us that He allows us to participate, like the Apostles, in the sacred banquet which gives nourishment for our souls. Pope Benedict calls the Eucharist “the great school of love.” He says that “When we participate regularly and with devotion in Holy Mass, when we spend a sustained time of adoration in the presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, it is easier to understand the length, breadth, height and depth of his love that goes beyond all knowledge.”

In the Gospel of the Passion, we heard how Jesus was ridiculed and beaten by the soldiers who arrested him. They reviled him. He was insulted by the chief priests and scribes and by the Sanhedrin. He was condemned to death by Pilate after the crowd refused to have Jesus released instead of Barabbas. In anger and with hatred, they shouted out: “Crucify him! Crucify him!” We heard how Jesus was then flogged, scourged and led away to carry the cross to Golgotha. But through it all, Jesus continued to love, not only the women who mourned and lamented him as He carried the cross, but also the soldiers and those who crucified Him. In the midst of terrible agony and suffering, He prayed from the cross: “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.” And from the cross, He revealed the depth of His merciful love when He forgave the thief who was crucified next to him. He said to the good thief who asked to be remembered in His Kingdom: “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

There is no greater story of love than the story of the Passion of Jesus Christ. When we look at the cross, we see the great truth that “God is love,” that the very being of God is love. Pope Benedict says: “Christ is the Lamb of God who takes upon himself the sins of the world and eradicated hatred from the heart of humankind. This is the true ‘revolution’ that He brings about: love.”

As Catholics, as loving disciples of Jesus Christ, we are called to join in this revolution, the revolution of love. Remember the words of Jesus: “Just as I have loved you, you also should love on another.” This is our calling; this is our common vocation, to love as Jesus loved. This is how people are to know that we are disciples of Jesus Christ, by our love for one another. This includes loving our enemies as well as our friends. And true love means sacrifice, especially for the poor and the needy, the sick and the suffering, the rejected and the outcasts. It includes love for our unborn brothers and sisters, for our immigrant brothers and sisters, for our Jewish and Muslim neighbors, for all people created in God’s image and likeness. We are to proclaim the Gospel of love in word and in deed. This is how we testify to our love for Jesus, by loving one another as He has loved us. As followers of Christ, we are called to imitate the One who vanquished hatred and death forever through love. When I was in the Holy Land two weeks ago, I prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane and walked the Via Dolorosa, the Way of the Cross, and I prayed at the site of Calvary and at the holy sepulcher. When I was there, there was a lot of tension and fears of an eruption of violence. There is such great animosity between the Israelis and the Arabs. I asked myself: will there ever be peace in the Holy Land, the land of Jesus, the Prince of Peace? Christ teaches us the way to true and lasting peace: it is the way of mercy and reconciliation, the way of love. And this applies not only to the situation among nations and peoples, it applies to each one of us in our individual lives, in marriage and family life, and life in the community of the Church and in society. We need to learn to love as Jesus loved, which includes love of enemies. Yes, it can be difficult. We can only love in this way with the help of God’s grace. The Holy Eucharist, the sacrament of love, gives us the strength we need to love as Jesus loved. It takes a lot of courage to love as Jesus loves, because we may not always receive love in return. Look at what Jesus experienced as He was led to crucifixion. Even while hanging on the cross, loving and forgiving those who were crucifying him, He was sneered at. The rulers cried out: “He saved others, let him save himself if he is the chosen one, the Christ of God.” The soldier jeered at him: “If you are King of the Jews, save yourself.” Jesus could have. He could have come down from the cross. But he endured the mockery and the suffering out of love for us. He desired to do the will of the Father and to redeem us by His death.

Today we begin the celebration of Holy Week. Try to make this week special, a truly “holy” week in your own lives. I encourage you to take extra time in prayer. Perhaps, you can take the Gospel of the passion and read it slowly and meditatively this week, reflecting on the great mystery of the passion and death of our Lord. I encourage you to come to the Chrism Mass Tuesday evening and to come to church during the Easter Triduum: participating in the beautiful liturgies of Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Easter Vigil. My prayer is that the Lord will fill you with a greater awareness of His love, that you will experience deep in your hearts the depth and intensity of God’s love for you. This is what motivates and empowers us then to love one another. The cross of Jesus Christ is the sign of the victory of God’s love! Next Sunday we will celebrate that victory as we rejoice in the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. In the meantime, let us embrace the cross of Christ, the holy cross by which He has redeemed the world!

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