The Greatest Love Story
I used to love dramatic romance novels, the kind where a couple fights to protect their relationship against all odds. I would root for them as they clung to each other through obstacle after obstacle. I would swoon over grand gestures of one’s love and passionate scenes of intimacy. Oftentimes, the story would end with a climactic sacrifice of one lover laying down his or her life for the other. These stories inspired many a daydream for me, and (understandably) stirred up unrealistic expectations for my high school relationships. As a teenager, I would delve into these romances and dream up a love who would at least be willing to die for me.
As it turns out, I had the most perfect lover all along, and He already died for me on a cross before I even knew Him. When I realized this, I began referring to Christ’s Passion as “the greatest love story of all time.”
During the Easter Triduum, we remember Jesus’ Last Supper, Passion, and Death. I always wondered why we refer to Jesus’ Way of the Cross as His “Passion,” and fortunately, I found out why from a podcast a few months ago. As a lover of words, I learned with interest that “passion” originally referred to suffering. Passion in it’s truest sense isn’t merely steamy scenes of physical intimacy. However, both intimacy and suffering require the body. Because of this, we can see why this notion can be skewed.
If Jesus’ Agony in the Garden of Gethsemane wasn’t the beginning of His Passion, then it was certainly a prelude to it. Overcome with anxiety, He shed His first drops of blood in the form of sweat. This condition results when someone undergoes extreme levels of stress, which causes capillaries to burst and blood mixes with sweat. He shed even more blood as He was scourged at the pillar the next day. I can only imagine the pain He felt when whips tore the flesh from His back. When He was crowned with thorns, fourteen sharp thorns pierced Jesus’ scalp, and they only dug in deeper while He carried His Cross. Exhausted from the weight of His Cross, it bit into His shoulder with every step. Finally arriving at Calvary, Jesus was stripped of His clothing and left completely vulnerable. I’ve always cringed at the thought of Him being nailed to His Cross, so I can’t bear to describe what it would have been like. Jesus hung on His Cross for three hours, gasping for air the whole time before He breathed His last breath.
It truly is hard for me to imagine Jesus bruised, bloody, and humiliated. When I really think of it, I can hardly bear to picture the face of Jesus in the midst of His Passion. I love Him so much, and it’s hard to think of your loved one suffering. Jesus teaches us that suffering is the price we pay for love, and His Passion and Death is the epitome of sacrificial love.
When I used to see grand gestures of romance, I found it hard to believe that someone would ever do something like that for me. Now that I’m older, I’ve definitely experienced some lovely gestures, but of course, none of them will ever top the greatest act of love of all time. Honestly, reflecting on Jesus’ love, especially during His Passion, can be overwhelming. Sometimes I find it hard to believe that Jesus was thinking of me during His Passion. I sometimes stop and think that He suffered and died for me out of His infinite love. Despite all of my past, present and future sins, all of my shortcomings, and the times that I chose other things over my relationship with Him, Jesus died for me so that He could welcome me with open arms when I return to Him. I remember this because each time I look at a crucifix, I see His outstretched arms and remember His perfect love.
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Passionate and Sacrificial Love
Whether we refer to passion in the context of romance or suffering, passion cannot exist without love. To be passionate with a romantic partner without love would result in lust and use. To suffer, especially for someone else, without love would be pointless. All of this reminds us that authentic love requires sacrifice, and sacrifice is supposed to hurt and be difficult in one way or another. In other words, sacrificial love requires suffering. Amidst His Agony, Scourging at the Pillar, Crowning with Thorns, His Way of the Cross, and His Crucifixion, Jesus without a doubt suffered tremendously for us. “Passion” appropriately describes His sacrifice, as it was the greatest act of love of all time.
He loves you and me more than we can ever imagine, and every time we look at a crucifix, we can be reminded of His never ending love.
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