Indeed, only with difficulty does one die for a just person, though perhaps for a good person one might find courage to die. But God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us” (Romans 5:7-8). This is the great mystery that we face when we look at our own selves in relation to Jesus. What is that mystery? Nothing less than love, perfect love.
Scripture so often reaches right down into the bare, stark realities of our earthly lives. In this case, we are confronted with a naked, undisguised fact: We are sinners. We, and all of our human brothers and sisters from the time of The Fall to the present, have sinned against love in countless ways. We have turned away from love out of pride, or any of the other deadly sins. We have been the very embodiment of foolishness. From Cain’s murder, to the prideful attempts to climb to heaven’s heights by building real towers, like that at Babel, or metaphorical ones made of intellectual pride, to the banal, crass, sexual diminishments of love done in Sodom and Gomorrah-like hedonism; we have turned away from Love. We who have condemned others for lesser crimes than those we have committed ourselves, who have made enemies out of the innocent, who have injured the good character of others out of anger or ignorance, have, in every case, turned away from Original Love. To quote Shakespeare, “What fools we mortals be.”
And while this is all true, we were not bereft of all morality. God gave us all a conscience and a free will. There have always been saints among us. We have always admired those who habitually showed themselves to be good. We, ourselves, try our best to be good most of the time. For someone like this we might find it possible, “under the right circumstances,” we might say, to die for a good person, though this too would be a very difficult decision for us. But the divine spark remains burning within most of us. Most of us desire to be good and to do good, yet it is also true that we fall short of our ideals often.
Yes. All of this is true. Yet, “…while we were still sinners Christ died for us.” The Love of God could not be conquered by our sins, by our betrayals, by our faithlessness. He, who is Love, let go of divinity, came among us, and was known to be of human form. He took on flesh and walked among us, suffered for us, suffering even death on the cross—out of perfect love for us. This is the love of God, the great mystery that calls us to our real selves, that challenges us to follow him and to love in the same way, even if it means suffering and death. This is love. Not Hollywood, or Valentine’s Day love. This is real love, a love that bears all things, hopes all things, endures all things. This is God, revealed in Jesus, who remains present to us today in his Holy Spirit, calling us to himself.
Lord, help us to recognize, to accept, and to follow you more each day. Give us the graces we need to be courageous enough to be your good and faithful servants, loving others in all that we do, in the same manner that you have loved each one of us. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen!
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