Everything Christ did during His life, and especially during those awful last hours, point to His great love for us.
But our human notion of real love is sketchy at best. Only through examining love in action through Jesus can we grasp the real essence of love.
God in His three Persons is almighty and all powerful. At any time throughout His torture, Christ could have said, “Enough!” and halted the process.
He could also have revealed Himself as the transfigured Christ – with all wounds healed. Can you imagine how terrified and in awe of Him the Jews and Romans would have been had He done that?
Instead he endured being whipped repeatedly with steel tips, spat upon, hit, jeered at and mocked. He was clothed in a purple cloak which was then ripped off His back after the blood from His scourging had dried on the material.
Thorns were pressed into His head and He was forced to carry His own heavy cross, when he had no energy left. When had he last eaten or drunk? At the Passover meal with the Apostles. That was hours ago.
The cross dug into his shoulder, inflicting even more pain, well before he was nailed to it and hoisted, naked, for all to sneer at while he took three hours to die of suffocation.
And at any point during this excruciating ordeal, He could have said, “Stop!”
But He didn’t.
Doesn’t that give us pause for thought? Do any of us love even one person enough to go through such agony for them, let alone the whole of flawed humanity?
It takes unbelievable humility to act as if you have no power over your persecutors.
That’s real love.
Makes one think, doesn’t it?
I've often wondered what the phrase in the Creed ‘He descended into Hell’ means.
Hell is separation from God. No one can enter communion with God in Heaven if he or she is not pure. We must be purged in Purgatory of our remaining impurities before we can enter Heaven.
Christ took on all the sins of the world – past, present and future – when He let Himself be crucified. He became impure. For the first, last and only time, He was separated from God.
And not because of anything He had done wrong. Completely pure, He became impure out of love for us. He’d been one with the Father from the beginning of time, and now, because He wanted to save us, He agreed to be separated from His Father.
No wonder he cried out, “My God, why hast thou forsaken me?” The agony of being split from the Trinity must have been far worse than any physical pain. Even though He knew it was temporary and necessary to conquer death, it was going to be – well, Hell for Him.
And when we realize that He was fully aware that this horrible moment of separation was imminent, the Agony in the Garden takes on an added dimension, doesn’t it?
Yet Jesus did this out of love for us.
Another beautiful truth.
He knew already in the Garden of Gethsemane just how many souls His sacrifice would save. He also knew the exact number of those who would spurn His sacrifice and descend into Hell.
Those latter souls will have refused to believe in God during their lifetime, only to discover His existence when they die. At the very moment when they believe in Him, they will be separated from Him.
Just when they desire Him above all things, it will be too late. They will never be with Him in Heaven.
Imagine how the knowledge of these truths increased Christ’s agony! We can readily sympathize with His prayers to have the chalice removed from His lips.
Yet He still went through His Passion out of love for us all. Even if only a few of us make it through that narrow door, Christ wanted to show us just how much He cared about every single human being, by dying a horrible death to give us all a chance to be saved.
Isn’t that another beautiful truth?
So how are we going to show Him our appreciation of what He went through ‘for us men and for our salvation’?