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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Let’s Talk About Twilight

I know. Twilight, Justin Bieber…I promise that I’m a grown adult and not a lovesick teen. But I truly believe that our creative faculties as humans come from God, and are therefore good to some degree. That means that all truly good art and music and movies reflect God on some level, and knowing Him more completely opens the door to seeing Him everywhere. Even in Twilight.

There are two specific reasons why Twilight has appealed to the masses. While it is exciting and, in my opinion, Meyer knows how to tell a story, the theory behind the love reflects two very distinct points about the relationship we crave with God:

1 – To Become Like Our Lover

Bella is obsessed with becoming like Edward. It is almost tiresome how badly she wants to be turned into a vampire and be his forever. She turns away from her friends, her family, and everything she has ever known because she is in constant pursuit of this one wish. While this obsessive, single-focused love seems unhealthy for us mortals, it is precisely what we are called to have with God. How different would my life be if I was this obsessed with becoming God’s? After all, our goal as Christians should be to become as Christ-like as possible so that we may spend eternity with him, by his side.

2 – To Be Fiercely Pursued

By Edward

I know that it has always been my deepest desire to be pursued. And no matter what criticism Twilight takes, no one can deny that Edward pursues Bella beyond reason, beyond all common sense, even to the point of being creepy. Isn’t that exactly what Christ does for us? There is absolutely no reason why He should pursue us. We are fragile, tiny, specs. We are humans. We are gone in a blink of an eye. He is something immortal, unbreakable, divine, and yet He chooses us. He waits for us. He has waited centuries for us.

He has died every day waiting for you. He has loved you for a thousand years. And will love you for a thousand more.

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By Jacob

Okay. So a lot of people were frankly disturbed by this whole “imprinting” situation where a werewolf is able to imprint on a lucky girl, and it’s like, as Jacob puts it, “All of a sudden, it’s not gravity that is holding you to the planet, it’s her. You would do anything, be anything for her.” Pretty intense, right? What drew me in about this situation wasn’t the involuntary adoration and commitment by the wolf, but the response it elicits in the woman. Jacob talks about how unlikely it is that a person would ever reject that level of admiration, commitment, care, affection, and honest, genuine love that is exactly what you need, when you need it. And we agree with him.

So if Christ offers me this powerful, other-worldly, unending, and absolute love, who am I to reject it? He offers me, in one relationship, everything I could ever need from another person.

All I have to do is be open to receiving it.

Christ Crucified

Preparing for Lent

I hate Lent. I always have. To me, it’s always been a time when I meant to do so much more than I ever achieved and Easter came leaving me feeling like I didn’t deserve it. I hadn’t prepared my soul and I did the fasting and the praying and the mourning with a grumbling heart. For me, Lent was always a time for self-denial, and I couldn’t see past the sacrifice. However, the more I try to understand love, the more I’m realizing that Lent could be so so so much more than I’m giving it credit for.

It could be resplendent.

The key is engaging my heart, understanding the love behind the sacrifice, and I believe the key to that is taking the time to prepare for Lent before Ash Wednesday so that I can be ready to accept the hard stuff with grace. This is the first year I’ve tried this, and also the first year I’ve tried something besides giving up a favorite treat or my snooze button or praying a decade of the rosary every day. (While these are all good things, they didn’t get me anywhere closer to Christ, which I believe to be the point of Lent).

This year I’ve invested in two books, both which offer daily meditations specifically for Lent, focusing on two different aspects of God and our faith. Shoutout to The Littlest Way for the recommendations! I also learned that the St. Louis de Monfort preparation for Marian Consecration starts on February 21st, and after some prayer I’ve made the decision to do that as well.

Anyway, I figured that now would be a good time to start preparing for Lent, as it’s only a week and a half away. I read the introductions to both books and the preparation (I’ve chosen to do Fr. Michael Gaitley’s 33 Days to Morning Glory instead of the traditional preparation), and I have to say that for the first time in my life, I’m excited for Lent.

From Rediscover Lent by Mathew Kelly:

My favorite passage from the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) appears as the first line of the first chapter, and it reads, “The desire for God is written in the human heart, because man is created by God and for God; and God never ceases to draw man to himself. Only in God will he find the truth and happiness he never stops searching for” (CCC #1).

God never ceases to draw man to himself. So. Beautiful.

From Reflections on the Passion by Charles Hugo Doyle:

LOVE moves and governs all things. Tell me what you love, and I shall tell you what you are. If your love is for the world, you are its slave. If your love is for Jesus Christ, you are free…

Jesus Christ alone is worthy of your whole heart. But you cannot love Him if you do not know Him…We must know the details of His sufferings, if we would know the excess of His love.

Jesus Christ ALONE is worthy of your whole heart. Often I get frustrated about not feeling love, not being at peace or passionate about Christ. I feel lukewarm. But how am I supposed to love Him if I do not know Him? Really, truly love Him?

From 33 Days to Morning Glory by Fr. Michael E. Gaitley, MIC:

So, it’s Mary’s great God-given task, in union with and by the power of the Holy Spirit, to form every human being into “another Christ,”…Therefore, every human being is invited to rest in the womb of Mary and be transformed there, by the power of the Holy Spirit, more perfectly into Christ’s image.

In other words, as Ven. Fulton Sheen so powerfully puts it:

Can you not see that if Christ Himself willed to be physically formed in [Mary] for nine months and then be spiritually formed by her for 30 years, it is to her that we must go to learn how to have Christ formed in us?

Only she who raised Christ can raise a Christian.

Only she who raised Christ can raise a Christian.

BOOM. MARY. JESUS. LENT.

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Why Do You Weep?

GAH. Today’s readings.

Reading 1 – 1 SM 1:1-8

There was a certain man from Ramathaim, Elkanah by name,
a Zuphite from the hill country of Ephraim.
He was the son of Jeroham, son of Elihu,
son of Tohu, son of Zuph, an Ephraimite.

He had two wives, one named Hannah, the other Peninnah;
Peninnah had children, but Hannah was childless.

This man regularly went on pilgrimage from his city
to worship the LORD of hosts and to sacrifice to him at Shiloh,
where the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas,
were ministering as priests of the LORD.

When the day came for Elkanah to offer sacrifice,
he used to give a portion each to his wife Peninnah
and to all her sons and daughters,
but a double portion to Hannah because he loved her,
though the LORD had made her barren.

Her rival, to upset her, turned it into a constant reproach to her
that the LORD had left her barren.

This went on year after year;
each time they made their pilgrimage to the sanctuary of the LORD,
Peninnah would approach her,
and Hannah would weep and refuse to eat.

Her husband Elkanah used to ask her:
“Hannah, why do you weep, and why do you refuse to eat?
Why do you grieve?
Am I not more to you than ten sons?”

Hannah was given a double portion because she was well-loved. She was given more, even though it appeared that she had less. And yet she still wept for the one thing she could not have. But her husband comes to her and says:

“Why do you weep…? Why do you grieve? Am I not more to you than ten sons?”

I walked into adoration feeling upset, frustrated, like I wasn’t getting what I wanted, and I read that.

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Am I not more than all of those things? Am I not bigger than this world, than your desires, do I not mean more to you than all these things?

I had to ask myself why I ever grieve, why I ever worry, why I ever feel even the slightest bit sorry for myself. Because if I have Him, what more could I possibly need? What more could I possibly want? He loves me, and has given me twice what I deserve.

That is cause for rejoicing.