As we celebrate Holy Week, we recall the unconditional love of our Lord Jesus Christ who became man for us so that he might not only show us the way to that love, but also to guarantee it by His act of complete self-sacrifice.
Sometimes when we think about the Son of God, Jesus Christ, coming into our human form, suffering, and then dying for us out of love, it seems too good to be true. After all, would God really want to sacrifice Himself totally for us out of love?
Even though this seems difficult to believe at first glance, subsequent reflection shows that it might be far more believable than we might have initially thought. Consider these six questions, and if you answer them as I did, you may find that the unconditional love of God – who comes to us in the incarnation, suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, is quite logical and believable. The only requirement is that we move from the logic of power to the logic of love.
1. What is the most important internal power or capacity that you have? Is it your intelligence? creativity? athletic ability? physical appearance? Or perhaps is it love?
If love (the capacity to enter into an empathetic union with another person whereby doing the good for them is easier than doing the good for myself) is truly our most positive, creative, and meaningful capacity – if love can never be negative, and if it continuously creates purpose in life and the common good, then it is a good candidate for our highest capacity.
2. If love is our highest capacity, if it is completely positive, and if it creates our true meaning in life, then could the Creator – our Creator – be devoid of that love (for which we seem to be made)?
3. If we respond “no,” and assert that the Creator must have some of the love that gives us meaning and fulfills our lives, then we should ask whether we only want some love – or rather, do we want unconditional love.
4. If we indicated that we truly want unconditional love, and that we will never be truly satisfied until we are loved and can love unconditionally, then we must ask ourselves – “if the Creator made us with the desire to love and be loved unconditionally, wouldn’t He also participate in that same unconditional love?”
5. If we responded that the Creator must in some sense be unconditionally loving, we will want to ask – “would it be typical of an unconditionally loving God to want to be with His creation – peer to peer, face to face, in an unconditional act of empathy to show us the way to eternal and perfect love in His Kingdom? Would it be typical of an unconditionally loving God to want to be Emmanuel (“God with us”)?
6. Well, if God is unconditional love and it would be natural for Him to want to be with us (as we are) in a perfect act of empathy – if it would be His true desire to want to be “God with us,” we have but one final question to answer – “Is Jesus the One?” Is the one who was raised from the dead in glory, who gave us His own Holy Spirit, who died for us in an unconditional act of love, who revealed God to be “Abba” (affectionate father – “Daddy”), who revealed that His Father was exactly like the father in the parable of the Prodigal’s Son, who sought out and lived with sinners, who performed miracles – including raising from the dead – in His own name, who revealed that love is the highest commandment and that the Father is the perfection of that compassion, affection, mercy, humility, and gentleness – is He the One?
As you know, I have already answered that question in my life. Indeed, I am psychologically incapable of not believing that God is unconditional love, and that God would want to be our Emmanuel, that He would want to give Himself totally to us, and that Jesus is the One. For that reason, I believe we are redeemed if we call upon Him, place our trust in Him, and follow Him. This is the joy and the ultimate dignity to which we are called.
Fr. Robert J. Spitzer, S.J.,