“God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit”Romans 5:5
The fire of Christ’s love on the cross has not burnt out.
It is not something of the past, of two thousand years ago, of which only the memory lives on. It exists now; it is alive. If it were necessary, Christ would die again for us because the love for which he died continues unchanged.
“I am more a friend to you than such and such a one,” Christ tells us as once he told the great mathematician and philosopher Blaise Pascal.
“I have done for you more than they; they would not have suffered what I have suffered from you, and they would not have died for you as I have done in the time of your infidelities and cruelties, and as I am ready to do, and do, among my elect”.Pensées, 553
Jesus has run out of signs for his love. There is nothing more he can do to show his love, for there is no greater sign than to give one’s life. But he has run out of signs for his love, not of love itself.
Now his love is entrusted to a special sign, a different one, a sign that is real, a Person: the Holy Spirit. “God’s love” – the love we now know – “has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit” (Romans 5:5). It is therefore a living and real love, just as the Holy Spirit is living and real.
Where the other Evangelists say that Jesus “uttered a loud cry and breathed his last” (Mark 15:37; cf. Matthew 27:50), John says that Jesus “bowed his head and gave up his spirit” (John 19:30). That is, he not only breathed his last, but he gave the Spirit, the Holy Spirit, his Spirit. Now we know what was in the loud cry that Jesus gave us as he was dying. Its mystery has finally been revealed!
Why did Jesus die for your sins?
Why did Jesus die for our sins? The answer was like a flash of sunlight illuminating the faith of the Church: because he loved us!
“Christ loved us and gave himself up for us” (Ephesians 5:2);
“the Son of God . . . loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20);
“Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25).
It is an indisputable primordial truth pervading everything, and it applies both to the Church as a whole and to every individual. St. John the Evangelist, the last to write his gospel, dates this revelation back to Christ when he was on earth:
“Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends”.John 15:13-14
This answer to the “why” of Christ’s passion is really final and allows no further questions. He loved us because he loved us – that’s all there is to it! In fact, there is no “why” to God’s love; it is a free gift. It is the only love in the world that is truly and totally free, that asks nothing for itself (he already has everything!) but only gives. Or rather, he gives himself.
“In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us. . . . We love, because he first loved us”.1 John 4:10, 19
Jesus, then, suffered and died freely, out of love. Not by chance, not from necessity, not because of any obscure forces or historical reasons overwhelming him without his knowledge or against his will. If anyone asserts this, they are nullifying the gospel, removing its soul, because the gospel is nothing other than the good news of God’s love in Christ Jesus. Not only the gospel, but the entire Bible is nothing other than the news of God’s mysterious, incomprehensible love for people.
If the whole of Scripture were to start talking at once, if by some miracle the written words were transformed into speech, that voice would be more powerful than the waves of the sea, and it would cry out: “God loves you!”
Excerpt from The Fire of Christ’s Love: Meditations on the Cross, © 2013 Raniero Cantalamessa, published by The Word Among Us Press. Used with permission.
Top image of a white shining cross and a glowing red setting sun, edited by DKS, from Bigstock.com, © by KoTangens, Stock Photo ID: 55617182
Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, O.F.M. Cap. (born July 22, 1934) is an Italian Catholic priest in the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin. He has devoted his ministry to preaching and writing. He is a Scripture scholar, theologian, and noted author of numerous books. Since 1980 he has served as the Preacher to the Papal Household under Pope John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI, and Pope Francis. He is a noted ecumenist and frequent worldwide speaker, and a member of the Catholic Delegation for the Dialogue with the Pentecostal Churches.