“It is the story of God’s love!” These were the words of my religion teacher, uttered when she was introducing us to the Bible. The truth in her words, thirty years later, I still unpack in the infinite treasury that is the Bible.
Indeed, God created men and women out of sheer goodness (Catechism, 1) – for the purpose of sharing His love with us. And while God is unquestionable in His decisiveness to love men and women, men and women, most of the time, appear only to be full of questions and plagued with indecisiveness before allowing ourselves to be fully and humbly embraced by divine love.
The Bible attests to this human response to the divine love.
God’s Love in the Old Testament
One of the fascinating books of the Bible is the Book of Judges. It narrates a time in the story of the people of Israel between the death of Joshua and the rise of Saul. It is a story that generally unfolds in a cyclic pattern (Judges 3:7-16:31):
- The Israelites did what was evil in the sight of the Lord
- God allowed the Israelites to be conquered by a foreign power
- The Israelites cried out to God for help
- God raised up a savior for Israel in the person of the judge.
- The Israelites were delivered and lived in peace.
That Israel did not learn from one mistake prompted God to send them twelve judges: a judge for each time they did evil and cried out to God for help. Sounds familiar? Do not our personal stories resonate in the story of the twelve judges?
One can say that the absence of mature figures like Moses and Joshua during this time in the history of Israel, and their stubborn recourses to doing what is wrong, rather point to a stage in life called adolescence.
In adolescence, we try to figure out how to exercise our freedom, our capacity to love and to be loved, at times through a series of mistakes committed from bad choices. In all these, God just does not give up. God remedies human failure to understand His love by offering more of His love. And in the end, God Himself became man in Jesus Christ so that through him, men and women will precisely learn how to love unconditionally, that is, with the sense of maturity.
Figured Out in Jesus Christ
In his letter to the Colossians (1:27-28, NRS), Saint Paul points to Jesus Christ as the mature man in whom all men and women find perfect maturity.
“To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. It is he whom we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone in all wisdom, so that we may present everyone mature in Christ.”
In Jesus Christ, the epitome of God’s love for man is revealed on the cross. On the cross, God in Jesus died for man: “…and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7, NRS). And in Jesus Christ, the epitome of man’s love for God is also revealed on the cross: “And he died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them” (2 Corinthians 5:15, NRS).
Love Alone in the Shape of the Cross
To end our reflection, we imagine a conversation between God and an old man. The old man asked God, “How much do you love me?” God pointed to Jesus on the cross and said, “This much.” And God asked the old man, “How much do you love me?” And the old man, gazing at the cross, answered, “Like Christ’s.”
Fr. Edison T.