The human Christ as lover is movingly depicted in today’s Gospel event. How he loved the family of Martha, Mary and Lazarus was an expression of the fullness of his humanity. “Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus . . . When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days….He became perturbed and deeply troubled, and said, ‘Where have you laid him?’ They said to him, ‘Sir, come and see.’ And Jesus wept. So the Jews said, ‘See how he loved him.’
” (Jn. 11: 5, 17, 33-36).
If you quiet down, close your eyes, and allow your heart and five senses to contemplate Jesus actually shedding tears for a loved one, you cannot but feel deeply his human affection. This is the Christ who loves, not only Lazarus, but you, me, and all our brothers and sisters in this world. When in silence and solitude, I place myself in God’s presence and listen in my heart, I cannot but feel how much Christ loves me. It is beyond words to describe, and it brings tears to my eyes. And since Christ loves me this much, weak and sinful as I am, I then become aware how much he loves anyone and everyone, in all of creation. Now, we know why God became Man in the person of Christ. God came to be with us and among us, so that he may express his love in a human way, thus inviting us to do as he has done. Yes, it is humanly doable.
Christ as lover is available, accessible, and approachable. He is not seated on some throne up there, nor is he surrounded by security guards for personal protection. Remember, the historical Christ was an ordinary carpenter who lived among ordinary people. Do I allow Jesus to relate to me in this way, so that as a consequence, I am able to relate to others as he does? Lord, even at this last stage of my life, when the end is just around the corner, with all its diminishments, keep pushing me with your love to be more available, accessible, and approachable to anyone and everyone.
Jesus was that kind of lover, not only to Martha, Mary, and Lazarus, but to all, especially those who needed him most. Remember that widow whose only son died? “When the Lord saw her, he was moved with pity for her and said to her, ‘Do not weep.’” And Christ brought him back to life again. (Lk. 7: 11-17). It was his human love and compassion again that moved His divine love and power to do that miracle for that grieving widow.
But it is not just in bringing back the dead to life that Christ expressed his profound, human love for us. A sinful woman was moved to repentance for her past, and while Jesus was dining at table, “she stood behind him at his feet weeping and began to bathe his feet with her tears…`Your sins are forgiven….Your faith has saved you; go in peace’” (Lk. 7: 36-50). Even numerous and anonymous crowds who were hungry for love touched him deeply, like those five thousand people who followed him on foot to a deserted place, where he had gone for some prayerful rest. “When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, and cured their sick.” (Mt. 14: 14). Not only that. His love and compassion moved him to feed them through that miraculous multiplication of loaves and fishes. (15-21)
Christ’s unlimited and unconditional love was so humanly expressed during that last supper with his apostles, when he washed their feet with such tenderness and affection. It was not done in a detached, spiritually emotionless way, as some paintings may have portrayed it. Christ loved each one of them deeply and personally. They could hardly believe what he did to each one of them, especially because such a task in those days was relegated to unsalaried slaves. And the clincher of it all was the “huling habilin” of Christ: “If I, therefore, the master and teacher washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet. I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.” (Jn. 13: 14-15). The further climax of it all was for Jesus to give his very life for them, and for all of us. Jesus, the Lover.
Are we really capable of loving as Christ did and does? Yes, definitely yes! And the proof is in the very first chapter of the Bible. “Then God said: ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness....God created man in his image, in the divine image he created him; male and female he created them.” (Gen. 1: 26-27). Each one of us was created after the heart of God, as incarnated by Christ, our Brother. For as long as we live as repentant sinners and Christlike lovers, we are assured of passing from mortality to immortality. The rest of today’s reading is most clear: “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.” (Jn. 11: 25-26).
When our time comes, may each one of us hear what Jesus the Lover whispered to that repentant thief hanging beside him: “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” (Lk. 23: 43). Thank you, Lord, forever thank you for your greatest gift to all of us: love that never dies. Amen.