On the Sunday before Holy Cross, the Church again reminds us of God’s love, and the great sacrifice that love exemplifies. On this Sunday we hear what is arguably the most quoted verse of the New Testament. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3.16) We see this quote in the stands at all sorts of sporting events, in crowds, on highways, just about anywhere we see people gather, someone has reminded us of the great gift of God’s love….He gave His Son.
This is important, not just to remind us that God loves us, but to remind us how to love. As we approach the Feast of the Holy Cross, the Church desires us to understand the connection between love, and the Cross. Also in the Gospel on this Sunday we hear, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up.” (John 3.14) This is a clear reference to the Crucifixion, which while extremely painful, brought life into a dead world. God loves us enough to suffer pain for us.
Anyone who has ever experienced personal love has experienced pain. Whether it be the pain of the death of a loved one, or betrayal, or just distance, we know that when we love we will also suffer. That personal painful love we understand as a part of life, and we accept it. But love doesn’t end with personal love because God also calls us to “love one another,” (John 13.34 and others) “love your enemies,” (Matthew 5.20) and “love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22.39) Ultimately God says, “This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” (John 15.12)
The story of God’s love isn’t just about how much He loves us. The Gospel is about how much we love others. Last week I challenged us to live and love as God wants us to live and love. This week we hear what that love means. When God loves, He forgives. When God loves, He comforts. When God loves, He gathers rather than scatters. When God loves, He corrects rather than remaining silent. When God loves, He leads. When God loves, He gives Himself and He suffers. How much are we willing to suffer for others? Remember! God doesn’t just ask us to love our friends, He commands us to love our enemies. Are we willing to do all these things for our enemies? God did.
Love is a cross. It is a cross because love requires that we offer ourselves to others, as God offers Himself to us. When we love as God loves, then we will “not perish but have everlasting life.”