How Could Any Love Be Greater?

It is love ‘to the end’ that confers on Christ’s sacrifice its value as redemption and reparation, as atonement and satisfaction. He knew and loved us all when he offered his life. Now ‘the love of Christ controls us, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died.’ No man, not even the holiest, was ever able to take on himself the sins of all men and offer himself as a sacrifice for all. The existence in Christ of the divine person of the Son, who at once surpasses and embraces all human persons, and constitutes himself as the Head of all mankind, makes possible his redemptive sacrifice for all. (CCC 616)

Yes, “there is no greater love than for a man to lay down his life for his friends.” It’s a verse with which I am very familiar and have been forever, but it never really hit a chord for me. It could be because when it came down to it, I don’t know if I would lay down my life for my friends, and I’m not sure I would be willing to undergo the brutal, inhumane torture of his scourging and crucifixion, even for those whom I love dearly. This is because I am lacking and God is not. My love is deficient and His is eternal, pure, and perfect. But still, I was never able to understand why this was the way God chose to redeem us when it seemed so…wasteful.

That changed when I watched the Passion today and went to Good Friday service. It became more about acceptance than self-infliction. God didn’t do this to Himself to prove to us that He loved us. He accepted our hate and transformed it into something beautiful by being obedient, by loving us, even to the end. He knew me intimately at that moment of Judas’ betrayal. He knew me, knew my hardened heart and insufficiency and looked into my soul, ready to make it new. And suddenly, the cross became something that could save me. This path would be the one that could set me free. And because of that, because He could pour out everything for the sake of my heart, He did. That is Love. He didn’t do just enough to help me get to heaven, He gave me everything, His heart, His body, His life. He gave it all, and He gave it willingly.

Because His cross was the path to my heart, He embraced it, kissed it, and felt joy upon seeing it. The point is not that he just accepted death, He didn’t just choose to die in my place, to take the punishment for my sins. Rather, He loved it, He willed it, He embraced it, solely because His death meant my chance at life. There is no greater love than this:

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I Still Remember

I have forgotten the things you told me. I remember the conversation, the connection, the confiding, but I’ve forgotten the words. And while I would give anything to hear your voice again, to listen to all of the words you have to say to me, somehow, they don’t seem to matter. What matters is that I don’t ever remember a time when we didn’t talk, and the deep, profound, unbreakable connection we had is one that I will never find with another soul. You were it for me. You were my love.

I have forgotten all of our arguments. I remember that there was only one thing we ever fought about, and how after you left I removed it from my life. It just took you leaving for me to finally realize how right you always were; how intimately you understood my heart and my needs, when I couldn’t even see two inches in front of my face.

I have forgotten all of my past sadness. I remember that you were always there. You were always there. You were always there. I remember how warm, how comforting, and how at home I felt in your embrace while I cried into your shoulder and you held me, you played with my hair, and you knew exactly what to say when I felt like my small griefs were beyond repair.

I have forgotten the summer night chill. I still remember the taste of your special hot cocoa  after we had finished hours and hours of movie marathons, sitting out on our front porch watching the stars. We’d talk about God and astronomy and I would not trade anything in the world for those memories.

I have forgotten what car you drove. I remember we would go everywhere in it together. I was your adventure buddy and you were my best friend and we were inseparable. I remember Starbucks runs and daily Mass and matinee movies and impulse Barnes & Noble trips.

I have forgotten what we ate. I remember that you’d pick me up and take me to the lake at lunch and we’d walk and eat and laugh and I felt like the luckiest person in the world because you were mine. And I don’t think I ever told you.

I have forgotten how tired I was those last few months, staying up with you in the hospital as the nurses would poke you with needles and check your vitals every 4 hours. I remember that I got to do what I had always wanted to do for you: take care of you, the way you always took care of me. I got to nurture you and love you and cook for you and help you every morning into your chair. I got to help you publish your book and see you cry as we put the hard copy in your weak, bone-thin hands.

I have forgotten the last thing I said to you. I still remember our last hug. I still remember hugging my best friend for the very last time. And sometimes, the only thing that gets me through it all is the hope that I will get that chance again.

I still can’t watch our old go-to movies. I still can’t look at your picture without feeling  a stabbing hurt. I still can’t go more than two or three days without crying myself to sleep. I still miss you more than words could ever even come close to describing. I still can’t think of my future without you there. I still have so much that I want to tell you.

But mostly, I wanted to say that I still love you. And I still remember.

And you’re still my mom.

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Behold, I Make All Things New

One year ago today, I was sitting in my sister’s living room with my mom and my dad. I was admiring my engagement ring while we were trying to decide where to eat for my sister’s birthday when we got a text that my sister-in-law, Kelly, was in the hospital and they couldn’t find her baby’s heartbeat. Four months pregnant, and Kelly had to endure a tiring, exhausting battle as she delivered a baby that she had already lost.

In the months that followed, Kelly tried to regain her spirits as my engagement began falling apart and my mom started getting increasingly sick. On the fourth of July, my mom was hospitalized for severe abdominal pain, and her stomach was filled with liters and liters of fluid. It was then we learned that her cancer had spread and that she had months, maybe, to live. Soon after, we also found out that Kelly was pregnant again and as the baby began to grow, my mom began to wither.

My mother fought a relentless, courageous battle for two and a half months. And her one goal the entire time was to survive. To live to see this baby born. But God had other plans.

We did our best afterwards. All of us did. But each event, each birthday, as Kelly’s belly grew, the pain increased too.

This was my sister’s first birthday without my mom, and I felt the loss acutely, as I’m sure she did as well. It was almost unbearable as I walked into church this morning. During the consecration, I couldn’t handle it anymore, I couldn’t bear the bruises and the beating and the pain any longer, so I just handed it over. I gave my heart to Christ.

It was then that Kelly stood up and walked out, with my brother following.

Her water broke and she was going into labor.

And at that moment, I knew. I knew He meant it. “Behold, I make all things new.”

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“…And He will wipe away every tear from their eyes;
and there will no longer be any death;
there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain;
the first things have passed away.”
And He who sits on the throne said,
“Behold, I am making all things new.”

Life can be so difficult and so painful and full of sorrow and grief. But, “how rare and beautiful it is to even exist.” And how can any of that matter when He is always there, ready to make it all new?

All I have to do is give it all to Him.