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: