by Andrew Consiglio - Leader and Director of Youth Fellowship
1. Love is a choice
Love is what you feel it is: this ever-ancient, ever-new deceptive ‘dogma’ permeates the modern world and sadly is also alive and well for some people in the Church today. Though well-meaning, they do not purport to replace the message of the Gospel but rather to re-interpret it, in the process discarding the revelation handed down to us by Scripture and consistent Church teaching through the centuries.
In Holy Week however, we encounter the greatest love story that we could ever imagine. The God-Man Jesus Christ, of His own accord, allows Himself to be handed over to be crucified, for our salvation (John 10:17-18). God loves us passionately but Jesus shows us that essentially love is a choice for the benefit of the beloved – not just a feeling. He carried the cross for our sake and it wasn’t pretty! He expects us to do so too:
And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.
2. Love cannot be separated from truth
Today many cling to a false notion of love that is bereft of truth. But it is for this ‘truth-in-love’ that Jesus goes through the passion which we relive in Holy Week. The Gospel tells me that the Lord didn’t die for my excuses; He didn’t pay for my clever self-justifying arguments, at times even dressed up in ‘progressive’ theological/spiritual garb. The moral relativism rampant in today’s modern world can easily effect us all; basically it seeks to change objective truth to suit us, rather letting the objective truth change us .
God the Father however didn’t ‘photoshop’ man’s sin off the canvas of humanity’s story; He didn’t close an eye to it with a dismissal wink. Jesus didn’t declare sin to be an old fashioned relic from the Old Testament. Because of man’s sin, such a deep chasm had been created between us and God, that only God Himself could bridge it. He does what He does in His Passion to save us, to justify the sinner– but not to justify the sin. Mercy and judgement meet at the cross. Real mercy for real sin, real forgiveness for real rebellion, real healing for real woundedness. We can be forgiven and healed – but we have to accept that we need it! This is love:
not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.
1 John 4:10
3. Love differs immensely from pseudo-love
A ‘spiritual pseudo-love’ is also being presented to us today and some are falling for it. However St Paul warns that even if we get the name right, it can still be that we are speaking of a ‘Jesus other than the one (he) preached’ (2 Cor 11:4). And what does this Jesus look like? Let us think of it this way. If the Jesus represented by some Catholics and Christians today walked the streets of Jerusalem, He would never have been persecuted, silenced and finally crucified. Mercy has come to mean ‘tolerance’ for matters which the Word of God clearly calls sin and from which the Lord came to save us! Jesus’ love is a tough love. He comes to us ‘full of grace and truth’ (John 1:14) – but a love which calls us on His terms not ours.
This love can be rejected not only by the Pilates, Herods and Pharisees of this world but also by those who claim to be part of Jesus’ inner circle. The elder brother too is in revolt! Consider Judas who wanted to create his own Jesus and ended up betraying the real one.
4. Love and Mercy are not Limited
In this year of mercy, we need to heed once again what Holy Week proclaims loud and clear: the love and mercy of God do not have a limit, He is always keen to forgive us and restore us. The blood shed on calvary is sufficient for all people, for all sins and for all times. There is no room for despair. It is a compassionate, tender, determined and faithful love which takes us beyond the grave to eternal life. The resurrection, the greatest factual event in history, offers us real peace, a real Presence and a real purpose in life. The power of the cross to save all those who believe is never exhausted
For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
1 Cor. 1:18
Let’s enjoy the sugar coated or chocolate covered figolla but resist all attempts to sugar coat the Gospel in the same way. It won’t work! What ‘works’ is the love of God poured into our hearts (Romans 5:5), the fruit of Easter which we celebrate with joy and great gratitude. This has enormous implications for the way we live our life, despite our weakness, suffering, victories and failures. We need to listen carefully, choose well, draw close to God in prayer and the sacraments and strengthen each other in the faith. And we need to be willing to keep ‘speaking the truth in love’ (Eph 4:15), to others and most of all to ourselves.