Carl Schafer OFM


            We have before us a shocking scene, a man nailed to a cross. That man is Jesus, the son of Mary of Nazareth, and the Son of God.


            Some see here only God's hatred for sin and some see a God who takes pleasure in human pain, and whose sense of justice is appeased only by human suffering. This terrifying idea of God could move us only to despair.


            But God has not revealed himself as an implacable judge, or the cruel avenger of every human offence. Jesus was not the victim of a vengeful God who would hand an innocent man over to torturers to take the place of so many guilty persons. God has revealed himself as the loving Father "from whom every family... takes its name" (Eph 3:15). Jesus is his loved Son and the brother of us all. He can't stand by when he sees his brothers and sisters in distress. He would save us from ourselves, whatever the cost, and the price he placed on us was the sort of suffering and death that he endured.


            So, in the death of Jesus, God is revealed not as the God of heartless justice but as the

God of love, who forgives all. The sufferings of Jesus show us not so much what sin is, although that is clearly seen too, but more so what true love is. Here we see to what extent God became a fellow-man for us, and how far he would spend himself for our good. It's expressed in the only language that can convince us: "A man can have no greater love than to lay down his life for his friends" (Jn 15:13). This love is stronger than suffering or death.


            The death of Jesus may strike us as an unthinkable horror, and so it was. But it was also the supreme proof of his love, which is what he wanted it to be. A deed of vicious hatred and inhuman cruelty on the part of his enemies, among whom we ourselves may have stood at times, has become the greatest triumph of love, both human and divine, for those who have been saved by it.


            If only the victims of despair had known this, we would hear less of suicides. For those who realise that Jesus loves us utterly, our own suffering is not some way of paying our debt to life or to divine justice. Our sufferings, whatever they are, prove our willingness to love Jesus our Saviour and our fellows as Jesus loves us. Suffering, willingly endured, is a return of love, which the life and death of Jesus Christ surely cries out for.


            He loved me and gave himself for me. And I ought to love him because he has first loved me.