The Ultimate Sacrifice was the Ultimate Demonstration of Love

When I was a young child in Brooklyn, my parents and I watched the movie The Greatest Story Ever Told.   The affect the Passion and Crucifixion scenes had on me, as I understand now, was life changing.  I remember weeping, sobbing to my parents; “Why did they do this to Jesus?”  I was devastated that the world had treated this wonderful person; my God, so savagely.  The visual of Him dragging the Cross and then hanging there – bloody and in so much physical and emotional pain – just crushed me.  I knew right then and there two things; how much I loved Him and how much He loved me.

Christ made the ultimate sacrifice when He endured the most humiliating and painful death possible at the time.  Crucifixion was reserved for the worst criminals, the dregs of society.  Roman citizens could not be sentenced to this type of execution.  Christ chose Crucifixion to document for the ages His fidelity to His Father’s will and the lengths He would go to prove His for love of us.  Jesus’ self-imposed execution was a fundamental demonstration of love for His children.  Not simply because he suffered an agonizing and shameful death, but because he willingly did so AND because he didn’t have to – He was God!

“For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life so that I may take it again.  No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again.  This commandment I received from My Father.”  John 10: 17-18

“Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.”  John 15:13

It is this incredible display of love, willed and ordained by the Father and carried out by the Son, that freed mankind from sin and opened the gates of Heaven again.  Christ’s death allowed for His Resurrection, the victory over death once and for all.  This is why the crucified Jesus is so central to the Catholic Church; Christ’s legacy on earth.  This is why Christ hangs on the Cross in our churches, around our necks and in our homes.  Because we want this reminder of Christ’s love for us, we want to understand why we’re called to suffer with Christ; to “carry our Cross”.  Because we want to have the greatest example possible of what someone will do for love, for love of his neighbor.  It is not that we want to subordinate Easter Sunday to Good Friday; the Resurrection to the Crucifixion.  Catholics want to live both the suffering and victory of Christ, simply because we have been called to do so by Him in Scripture and Sacred Tradition.  Let us never forget, and be constantly mindful of, our Lord’s completely unselfish giving of Himself on the Cross for us; his friends.

“We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.”  1 John 3:16

Christ Had to Die for Us to be Saved

Many of my separated Christian brothers and sisters do not pay enough attention to the event of Christ’s death; the Crucifixion.  Of course they recognize it, understand what Jesus went through, and are grateful for it.  But in their absolute focus on the Resurrection as the central event in Christian history, they really don’t live a complete Christian life, at least in my opinion.  First, they believe that if we are “reborn” that we are “once saved always saved”.  And so second, that living a Christian life that entails too much focus on suffering and the Crucified Christ is unnecessary.  Why, because Christ already suffered for us all; that event is over.  He is risen and once reborn we are to live in complete confidence of our salvation.  What room does this leave for suffering?

This is a big difference between living a genuine Catholic life or not.  Many separated Christians do not want to live the suffering piece.  This is why they seem much more joyous in their prayers and in speaking of their Christianity.  Why their services are more gregarious, louder and more expressive and the Catholic Mass and Sacraments are more subdued and reverent.  Because we are showing proper respect for the living Christ in the Tabernacle, while always being mindful of the price he paid for our sins and access once again to Paradise.

Christ’s Resurrection is Proof of His Divinity and Solidifies His Faithfulness to His Children

Could you imagine what Jesus’ disciples felt like, especially the Apostles, when this man who they believed was God meekly – and without much self-defense, allowed Himself to be murdered?  Again, by way of crucifixion.  Can you imagine their disappointment and sorrow?  What was He doing?  He was God, wasn’t He?  Can you fathom their let down when most thought that Christ was about to lead them in battle against the Roman occupiers?  That He was to be King of the Jews?  Jews must have been extremely confident they could liberate themselves with Jesus in the lead.  After all, He made the blind see, the lame walk and the dead live.  But it was not to be.  It seems that most of Christ’s disciples let His talk of being raised on the third day go in one ear and out the other.

Jesus promised His disciples, and most certainly spoke to His Apostles in detail, that He was going to die and rise from the dead in glory.  Christ has never not kept a promise to His children, and His promise to return to His disciples was no different.  Jesus said He would and He did.  Christ’s fidelity to His Word and His Children demonstrates something really incredible.  That although we may lose faith in Him at times, He never loses faith in us – never has and never will.  The Apostles, these men who were with Jesus every step of the way for three years, who witnessed all His miracles, His Transfiguration, etc. and were made aware that He had to die in order to rise in glory, even they lost faith in Jesus Word.  When Christ appeared in the room where the Apostles were in fear of the Jews and said “Peace be with you”, His divinity was never to be in doubt again and He proved once and for all that He keeps His promises to us.

 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”  John 3:16.

 

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