What I want to express on this blog more than anything is the profound depth of God’s love for you, exemplified in the living person of Jesus Christ. And on some level I know I’ll never succeed because the chasm between the infinite love Jesus bestows on us and the finite love which we bestow on each other is unbridgeable.
Think of the person who loves you the most: your spouse, your parent, your best friend, whoever it might be. That person’s love for you is to Jesus’ love for you as a drop of rain is to the ocean.
Nothing demonstrates this more deeply than Jesus’ incarnation and death, which I’ve written about here. Yet another aspect of Jesus’ wondrous love for us is his limitless willingness to forgive us.
Consider that, on the cross, while suffering in the most agonizing way possible, Jesus cried out, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34) Who does this? Who forgives his torturers? The only other examples that come to mind (such as Saint John Paul II, forgiving his would-be assassin) are saints following the way of their Lord.
It may be tempting to think that “Father, forgive them” is a nice thing Jesus said that has no actual consequences. On the contrary. In Acts, Peter holds out the promise of forgiveness to those who killed Jesus:
The author of life you put to death, but God raised him from the dead; of this we are witnesses. Now I know, brothers, that you acted out of ignorance, just as your leaders did; but God has thus brought to fulfillment what he had announced beforehand through the mouth of all the prophets, that his Messiah would suffer. Repent, therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be wiped away. (Acts 3:15, 17-19)
Acts records that many of those who heard Peter that day (and saw his cure of the crippled beggar in Jesus’ name) were converted: “Many of those who heard the word came to believe and the number of men grew to about five thousand.” (Acts 4:4) We can’t know how many of those in the crowd shouting for Jesus to be crucified were converted that day (or in days to come) and were saved. But the Bible tells us that some of their number – some of those who demanded that God’s only Son be tortured and killed – were nonetheless forgiven by God and saved.
There is also the example of Paul, who was one of the leading persecutors of the early Church before his conversion. Paul (who was then known as Saul) was present at the execution of Stephen, the first martyr, and after that was “trying to destroy the Church; entering house after house and dragging out men and women, he handed them over for imprisonment.” (Acts 8:3) Paul, of course, encountered Jesus on the road to Damascus. Though he had sinned greatly, the Lord forgave him and loved him. Not only that, the Lord had a plan for Paul, such that he went on to become the greatest evangelist of the Christian faith.
So too, Jesus loves you and has a plan for you. He is anxiously waiting to forgive you, if only you will ask with a sincere heart. We are really no different from the crowd in Jerusalem that shouted “Crucify him!” Because I have sinned, and because Jesus loves me so much, he willingly suffered and died on the cross. This was the only way to free me from my sins and reconcile me to the Father.
Jesus thought about me on the cross. He thought about my sins, yes, but he also thought about my redemption. He thought about the plan he has for me, a plan that will include many graces, and also many trials and sufferings in this life. A plan that will culminate in eternal life soaking in his infinite love.
And so it is for you too. Because you have sinned, and because Jesus loves you so much, he willingly suffered and died on the cross. This was the only way to free you from your sins and reconcile you to the Father.
Jesus thought about you on the cross. He thought about your sins, yes, but he also thought about your redemption. He thought about the plan he has for you, a plan that will include many graces, and also many trials and sufferings in this life. A plan that will culminate in eternal life soaking in his infinite love.
Today is an excellent day to give your love to Jesus, however imperfect your love may be. Today is an excellent day to ask for the forgiveness he longs to give you. Today is an excellent day to turn to Jesus with your whole heart, so that you can begin to know the infinite depth of his love for you.
Mike, your words are especially pertinent as we embark upon the season of Advent. Thank you for your work.