The Crucifixion - by GRÜNEWALD, Matthias - from Musée d'Unterlinden, Colmar
He hangs on a Cross between earth and sky, between men and God. He has nothing to recommend Him but humility and a great love. Yet His outstretched arms are big enough to hold the world. The road to happiness lies through His Cross. If any man will save his life, he must first lose it. He must deny himself and follow Christ.
Beloved, let us love one another because love is of God; everyone who loves is begotten of God and has knowledge of God. The man without love has known nothing of God, for God is love. God's love was revealed in our midst in this way: He sent His only Son to the world that we might have life through Him. Love, then, consists in this: not that we have loved God, but that He has loved us and has sent His Son as an offering for our sins. The Word of the Lord.
Jesus said to His disciples:
"As the Father has loved Me, so I have loved you. Live on in My love. You will live in My love if you keep My Commandments, even as I have kept My Father's Commandments, and live in His love. All this I tell you that My joy may be yours and your joy may be complete. This is My Commandment: love one another as I have loved you. There is no greater love than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends. You are My friends if you do what I command you. I no longer speak of you as slaves, for a slave does not know what his master is about. Instead, I call you friends since I have made known to you all that I heard from My Father. It was not you who chose Me, it was I who chose you to go forth and bear fruit. Your fruit must endure, so that all you ask the Father in My name He will give you. The command I give you is this: that you love one another."
If we are living in God's Love - and if we receive it by opening our hearts to this Love because It is freely given and not because we deserve It - then we will be able to keep His Commandments. The Commandments are simple: To believe as much as we can and to love as much as we can. To believe in the process means to believe in ourselves, to believe in the world, and in the people who are around us. It means to love our lives. It means to love God and the people God has given us. Love is, then, simply wanting to be instruments of giving life. Notice that John in this Gospel goes on to say that we will understand this love by looking at the fact that God gave us His only Son. This Son "died for His friends". That wonderful image speaks to this question: How intense is our desire to give life? How much do we want to give? How inconvenient does it have to become before we start saying, "I'm going to stop giving". It's obvious that we are asked to give without limit. God loves us in this way, and the Reading tells us He wants to give us an Energy that will allow us to do the same without counting the cost. When we are in a disposition of giving to people and yet counting the cost, that's an awful situation. This doesn't mean we don't also love ourselves and are careful not to overextend. It's about a way of understanding how the system works. If we constantly ask ourselves what a situation will demand of us before we instinctively do it, then we haven't entered into this marvelous disposition God calls love.
We are invited into a relationship with God where we are no longer slave and Master. We are friends. We are not fulfilling an obligation. It might be that a person feels he or she has to work for a demanding God. This image is one of a slave. Jesus tells us to let go of that image. A master only gives direction to his slaves. God gives Wisdom, Knowledge, and Understanding. He's not telling us what to do. He is showing us what is so, in order that we can know what to do. God loves our participation in the process. He is not interested in a relationship where we are the underlings. He wants a friendship. No wonder the people who first heard Jesus speak this way called Him a Blasphemer. They felt He was making Himself too close to God. They felt He was making a mockery of their system. Well, He was undercutting their system of control over people. God isn't interested in controlling anyone. He just wants to love His people. He wants to be a part of their lives. He wants them to sense that He is there for the purpose of giving life. Then, God hopes we will receive the Gift. And as we take it in, the most natural thing is for us then to give to those in our lives who long for this Gift.