“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him, shall not perish, but have everlasting life.”
John 3:16 is probably one of the most frequently quoted passages from the Bible, with good reason. No matter how often it is recited, no matter how ‘overused’ and ‘worn out’ it may seem, beneath those words lies the same triumphal message that St. John penned nearly two thousand years ago. God, being all loving, gave that which He loved best in order to open the gates of heaven for us.
“O Lord, it was not in jest that you loved me, but Your love is perfect and real. In myself, I see the opposite, for my love is lukewarm and untrue” (St. Angela of Folingo). Christ’s love for us burned so fiercely in His sacred heart that He gave His own life rather than see us damned, even though we continue to offend Him with our sins. How can we possibly return this unconditional love?
Christ’s passion is the greatest testimony of His love for us. “Your love, O my God, arouses in me an ardent desire… to keep continually in mind Your passion and death” (St. Angela of Folingo). In what better way can we thank Christ for His sacrifice than to meditate upon His passion and death? For this reason, the Catholic Church provides us with the Stations of the Cross, a guided way to follow Christ up Calvary and to stand beside the sorrowing Mother at the foot of the cross to the very end. There is no particular method of praying the stations, as there is with the rosary. Vocal prayer, meditation, and even singing, are all incorporated in different ways throughout the church. What matters is that the passion, particularly that grueling walk up Calvary’s steep sides, is contemplated, for “By suffering with Him, we shall understand His sufferings better and have a better comprehension of His love for us” (Divine Intimacy 395).
However, our imitation of Christ must not be contained within prayer alone. We are not told merely to watch the passion from the sidelines. We are obliged to take up our crosses in all aspects of our daily lives and to follow Christ wherever He leads us, whether the way be fair or stormy. The crosses will come in all different shapes and sizes. Some will be much harder to bear than others. Yet as Christ cheerfully took on the cross of our salvation, so should we offer up every cross, big and little, throughout the day, recognizing them as acts of love to be offered to Him.
Truly, not one of them is easy to bear. They wouldn’t be crosses if they weren’t! But to suffer cheerfully? It seems like too much to ask of us, who have so many different cares and difficulties surrounding our lives. We often feel a little better about doing something we don’t want to by complaining first. Sure beats trying to do it happily. It certainly does feel that way sometimes, until you think of the way that Christ suffered all those cruel torments, beatings, mockery, even having huge nails driven right through his hands and feet. And He spoke not one reproachful word throughout His entire Passion! Not a single complaint. Should we not do the same?
We must never be discouraged by the weight of our own trials, but rather bear them with the ardent desire to return our love to He who took upon His shoulders the sins of the entire human race in order to bring our souls ever closer to Himself. By meditating on Our Lord’s Passion, particularly through the Stations of the Cross, we both thank our Savior for offering Himself for us and remind ourselves to take up our own crosses willingly and out of love for Him. We should always strive to practice complete, joyful conformity to God’s will, echoing Christ’s words in the garden of olives, “If it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as Thou wilt” (Matthew 26:39).
We adore Thee, O Christ, and we bless Thee, because by Thy holy Cross, Thou hast redeemed the world.
We are not worth something because we love God.
We are worth something because God first loved us.