From the moment of His divine conception in the womb of Mary to His ultimate death on a cross, Jesus the Christ emptied Himself into the perfection of human form and thus into all encompassing, human love.
In taking human form Jesus took on and reflected the perfection of human nature and the perfection of human love that were part of God’s original gift to all humanity. But humanity constantly misused, and continues to misuse, its other great gift from God of free will. It strove instead to choose power, wealth and self-satisfaction, which led, and still lead, to great injustices in the world.
So the divine Son of God became human to model in all His humanity, especially in His human actions and words, the original, divine plan for unconditional love to be practised and experienced by all humanity. His death on the cross illustrated the extent of that unconditional love, for “greater love has no one than to lay down one’s life for a friend” (John 15:13). We participate, through remembering, in Jesus’ great act of universal redemption on Calvary by participating actively in Eucharist, wherein Jesus the Christ accomplishes within us the fruits of His Pascal Mystery and, through our being channels of His unconditional love, within all those with whom we interact in an unconditionally loving way.
The regular practice of contemplation, often today confusingly termed meditation, gently and gradually increases our awareness of our silent, still, inner reality, the place beyond words, thoughts and feelings wherein God resides as divine, pure love. “The purpose of our meditation (meaning ‘contemplation’) is that there should be nothing false in us, only reality. Only love. Only God.” (The Way of Unknowing; John Main). That is why St. Paul tells us so clearly “if I am without love, I am nothing.” (1Cor 13:2)
As people who strive to practise it know only too well, suffering (being taken for granted, ignored, reviled and betrayed) and perhaps for some even death itself, are the inevitable consequence or price of practising unconditional love in a selfish and unjust world. But that suffering and death for such expansive love also lead to eventual resurrection, as embodied by Jesus and remembered by Christians every Easter Sunday.
In human terms, this resurrection takes place for both the lover and the one being unconditionally loved, as both become part of divine love which flows eternally within the fellowship of the three divine persons of the Holy Trinity, a love which also embraces the whole of humanity and the whole of God’s creation. It is that flow of divine love that brings about the ‘new creation’ initiated by Jesus the Christ; “for anyone who is in Christ, there is a new creation: the old order is gone” (2Cor5:17). St. Peter calls it “a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus the Christ from the dead, and into a new heritage that can never be spoilt or soiled and never fade away.” (1Peter 1:3-4)
Easter Sunday is the time for Christians to rejoice in the resurrection of Jesus the Christ and to strengthen their resolve to continue striving, with the indwelling power and guidance of His Holy Spirit, to help bring about the ‘new order’ and ‘new birth’ started by the death and resurrection of Jesus the Christ. Paul’s ‘new creation’ and Peter’s ‘new birth’ and ‘new heritage’ are about the followers or disciples of Jesus the Christ helping to resurrect the whole of humanity and all creation by their constant practice of faithful, unconditional love. That love opens the channels of God’s compassionate love, mercy and justice to the whole of His divine creation. “It is by your love for one another that everyone will recognise you as my disciples.”(John 13:35). It is the personal experience of that kind of love which effectively evangelises people and draws them to Jesus the Christ to be recreated and reborn as His disciples. Eucharist and the prayerful reading of, and reflection on, Sacred Scripture strengthen and guide us in our Christian vocation. That vocation of active discipleship is to be, and to herald, the ‘good news’ of God’s unconditionally loving presence of Jesus the Christ in all humanity and the whole of creation. God loves the whole of humanity and the whole of His creation, not because it is in His own interest to do so, but because it is His very nature to love. God can do no other than love unconditionally. As Fr. Richard Rohr has written about our love for God; “It is not a requirement in order that we can go to heaven later, it is an invitation so that we can live an entirely full life now.” (Things Hidden: Scripture as Spirituality).
So, let us all “Give thanks to Yahweh for he is good, for his faithful love endures for ever.” (Psalm 118:1)
(The author acknowledges with grateful thanks the continued inspiration of the writings and teachings of Pope Francis, Fr. Richard Rohr and his co-worker Cynthia Bourgeault. )
Lovely thought Aidan. As mothers we experience many times what it’s like to give unconditional love, and Easter time is a marvellous example of this love our Saviour showed us.
Always impressed with your take on things. I’m often left wondering what inspires you but with your Francis, Rohr, and Bourgeault note, I guess that is the reason I can relate to this. The world is begging for a “new order”. The Pope says “Let’s give them one.” Bring forth ideas.
Thank you Lloyd, that was kind of you.
Thank you Aidan,
That is the most inspiring, nourishing and challenging piece I have read this Easter.
A beautiful reminder-in good straight-forward and direct language – about the nature of True love.
Your message resurrects Hope in these difficult times, and inspires a determination to carry on and Keep the Faith!
As always , in all that Aidan writes ,
I am so grateful for the unconditionally loving God he describes . It is so helpful to be reminded of the original gift of human nature and human love – so wonderfully embodied by Jesus so much later – and it’s inherent goodness.
So often, it seems , we dwell more in our lack , our sinfulness, our unworthiness and as they say , what we dwell upon , grows …
I am hugely encouraged by Aidan’s words
and thank him again for reminding us of the indwelling Holy Spirit in others and in ourselves. May our hearts be raised
In this knowledge .
thanks for your reflection it is a blessing for this season of hope
I couldn’t agree more – if we all focused on the unconditional love of others – the world would be utterly perfect!
We all need to challenge ourselves therefore about those times when:
we give but secretly (or overtly) expect to receive something in return;
we do nice things for others because it makes ourselves feel good; and
we do not give of our time, money etc because we expect it will be abused.
It’s practically impossible for many (or all) of us to consistently practice unconditional love – but even if we each do it a little bit more today than we did yesterday – that would be a great start!
I agree with you Colette. The constant practice of unconditional love is always challenging and at times difficult, even very difficult. It is in conquering the pain of our frequent failures by continuously returning to love unconditionally that we bring ‘the other’ to the resurrection of hope and joy in their lives, and eventually in our own.
In His humanity I don’t doubt that Jesus found His way of compassionate, forgiving and unconditional love difficult at times; not easy when you are being spat upon, flogged and crucified. But still He prayed, while hanging on the cross and enduring excruciating pain “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34) As St. Peter says in Sacred Scripture “Christ suffered for you and left an example for you to follow in his steps. He had done nothing wrong……He was insulted and did not retaliate with insults; when he was tortured he made no threats but he put his trust in the righteous judge.” (1Peter 2:21ff – this morning’s Second Reading at Sunday Eucharist).
Unconditional love is not a destination that we will arrive at one day. Rather it is a lifelong journey to which we need to commit ourselves every morning of our lives.
The ‘Good News’ is that we are not on our own on that difficult journey; the Holy Spirit is always present within us to guide our steps and help lift us up when we falter or fall, as we will do frequently. All we have to do is be aware of that divine Presence and call upon it constantly. The journey of unconditional love helps each of us in our own small ways to contribute to God’s ‘new creation’ of a just, compassionate, hope filled and loving world, His intention from the first moment of His creation.
A very good article Aidan, I have been reflecting upon it for some time
“Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34)
“I don’t doubt that Jesus found His way of compassionate, forgiving and unconditional love difficult at times”————————————-
My reflection on Jesus in His human nature is that He had to struggle with the reality of sin He would have been aware of its corrupting influence on the human heart and would have had to struggle with it; He would know the inner reality of every man in the reality of Himself as a fallen man.
With this struggle with His own human reality in humility He would see His own human nature and because of this “difficulty” does not come into the equation as it is a known reality in that he sees himself in those who persecute Him he “knows” what they do hence
“Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”
The basis for the journey of unconditional love is one of humility (St Bernard-Humility a virtue by which a man knowing himself as he truly is abases himself).
As we see ourselves in our brother and in doing so see him with a compassionate heart we can do no other as we know his heart as we know our own.
“Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me, for I am gentle (meek) and humble (lowly) in heart, and you will find rest for your souls”
For me this statement by Jesus is saying that He knows the reality of His human nature and because of this he knows ours.
kevin your brother