As we enter Holy Week, I asked the Lord to show me what He wants me to see and focus on as I contemplate His great passion. In the discussions I’ve had with friends and family in the last few weeks, it has become evident to me that He would like me to meditate on His sacrificial love.
On Valentine’s Day I talked about “love” and the types of love that exist. Storge, Phileo, Agape, Eros. When I think about the Passion of Christ, I see all of these types of love present; however, the one that resonates most profoundly is Eros love.
You may be wondering why I would associate Jesus on the cross with a romantic love? I’ve thought about why Jesus would say yes to God and fulfill the prophecy. The task was great. He asked God to take the final cup from Him. He sweat beads of blood from the stress Hhe endured at the thought of what was to come. What love could be so great that He would endure this?
The love between a man and a woman, of course! In the writings of John Paul II, in his ‘Theology of the Body,’ we understand how God made us male and female to be a gift for one another. So, Christ was to make Himself a gift for His bride, the Church. He loved the Church so much that He gave Himself to her fully, completely, and without reservation. Even unto death.
This sacrificial, unreserved, complete love is the same love that God calls us to in marriage. The world would like to paint a picture for us that looks ideal. The big wedding is over, and now they live happily ever after. Their life is simple and without challenges. If you are called to marriage, remember that you are called to the same sacrificial love that Christ was called to. To love God through your spouse. To love them not just “till death do you part” but to love them unto death itself.
Looking back at my failed marriage, I can see the manipulation that took place to try and change one another; the lack of forgiveness that was present and the withholding of love when we weren’t feeling loved or appreciated ourselves. I realize this is far from what Christ did for me. Christ forgave me knowing my lack of love for Him and others. He loved me for who I was and where I was. And He loved me completely without withholding Himself, stretching His arms out on the cross.
I know this is not the way I loved my spouse. I refused to walk with him as he was. I had fallen in love with the idea of what could be rather than what was. But Christ has given us a perfect example of how we should love our spouse. “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps” (1 Peter 2:21). If you watched The Passion of the Christ, you’ll never once see Jesus putting Himself first. So it is in marriage.
But marriage is one of the most beautiful ways to love God and God also rewards us for this. In Luke 6:38, Jesus says,
“Give and it shall be given unto you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will men give unto your bosom.”
You see, your giving and your sacrifices are blessed, and the rewards are bountiful. Listen again and you’ll hear it: “Give and it shall be given unto you, good measure” (alluding to how Jews measured for flour or grains), “pressed down” (as to make more room to apply more), “shaken together” (another method to make more room and pack down), and “running over” (to heap so much that it flows over). The blessings are not just returned but returned in abundance. Also, in 2 Corinthians 9:6-8Paul says,
“The point is this: he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must do as he has made up his mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that you may always have enough of everything and may provide in abundance for every good work.”
The rewards of marriage come in the way of physical affection and companionship. To me, one of the most important parallels between marriage and the Passion is that both are life-giving. By dying on the cross, Jesus opened the gates of heaven and made a way for us to enjoy eternal life with Him in heaven. The sacrament of marriage is physically life-giving and fruitful with the creation of children. Man and woman become sub-creators with God. What higher honor could there be?
God makes it clear that much is expected but much is also given when we sacrifice for another. This is why it is so important to find someone who understands and is willing to give in times when the other partner is not able to reciprocate, knowing that God will still reward bountifully. I pray for this for myself, for my own daughter, and for all of you, my friends. That we may have courage, that we may trust God fervently and that if we are called to marriage, that we may discern and search for the type of spouse that will love us with the same sacrificial love as Christ did on the cross and that we may be able to do the same.