Greater love has no man than this, to lay down his life for his friends, Jesus said at the Last Supper.
We could exclaim: But there does exist a greater love than giving one's life for one's friends: your love! You did not give your life for your friends but for your enemies! Paul says that scarcely can someone be found who is ready to die for a just man, although such a man might be found: But God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us (Rom 5:8).
The word "friends" in the active sense indicates those who love you, but in the passive sense it indicates those whom you love. Jesus calls Judas friend (Mt 26:50), not because Judas loved him, but because he loved Judas! There is no greater love than giving one's life for one's enemies while considering them friends; this is what Jesus meant by his statement. People can be — or act as though they are — enemies of God, but God will never be the enemy of any human being…. Jesus died, crying out, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do…. It is a peremptory request made with the authority that comes from being the Son: Father, forgive them!
I knew an intellectual woman who professed to be an atheist. One day she got the kind of news that leaves people stunned: her sixteen-year-old daughter had a tumor in her rib cage. They operated, and she returned from the torment of the operating room with nasogastric tubes, drainage tubes, and intravenous feeding tubes coming out of her body. The girl was suffering horribly and groaning, and she did not want to hear any words of comfort. Knowing that her daughter was devoutly religious, and thinking that it would please her, the mother asked her, "Do you want me to read you something from the Gospel?" "Yes, Mama, read me the Gospel," she answered. "What do you want me to read you from the Gospel?" "Read me the Passion." The mother, never having read the Gospel, ran to get a Bible from the hospital chaplains. She sat at her daughter's bedside and began to read. After a while, the girl fell asleep, but the mother continued to read silently in the semidarkness up to the end. She said in the book she wrote afterward that "the daughter fell asleep, but the mother woke up!" Her reading of the Passion of Christ had changed her life forever.
Cardinal Raniero Cantalamessa, O.F.M. Cap. "excerpt from The Gaze of Mercy, A Commentary on Divine and Human Mercy. (Frederick, MD: The Word Among Us Press, 2015).
Reprinted under a fair use provision.
Cardinal Raniero Cantalamessa, O.F.M. Cap. is a Franciscan Capuchin Priest. In 1980 he was appointed by Pope John Paul II Preacher to the Papal Household and confirmed in that position by pope Benedict XVI in 2005. He is the author of many books including The Gaze of Mercy, A Commentary on Divine and Human Mercy, Life in the Lordship of Christ: A Commentary on Paul's Epistle to the Romans, Sober Intoxication of the Spirit: Filled With the Fullness of God, Beatitudes: Eight Steps to Happiness, Serving the Word: My Life, and Life in the Lordship of Christ: A Commentary on Paul's Epistle to the Romans.Copyright © 2015 Cardinal Raniero Cantalamessa, o.f.m. cap.
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