Summary: God's love for us is eternal, preexisting our own lives. It does not change as we change but is eternal, whatever the consequences and judgment upon us will be.
We’re drawing to a close on this season of Lent, and today we move into Holy Week, when we remember the events leading up to, and through, the crucifixion of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. This truly should be a holy week, during which we especially focus our efforts on almsgiving, prayer, and fasting by which we mortify the flesh. Mortify the flesh—that is, we kill the craving and coveting of the body and sinful nature, and ask God to pour life from the Spirit into our bodies, so that our bodies would do what we will them to do and become a fitting temple of the Holy Spirit.
We draw also to the end of our Lenten sermon series, “Falling in Love Again” and find no more fitting place to halt our progress than here, at the foot of the cross.
There was “A Falling Out” long ago when our parents, Adam and Eve, sinned in the garden and fell out of love. And each one of us has sinned ourselves, and we variously continue to sin and refuse God complete and total lordship over our lives, and our undivided love. See Adam and Eve, you and I, we’ve not stopped loving God in some way, but we’ve fallen out of love; we’re not head over heals for God. And yet the Lord has not cast us off. For the relationship of the Father to His sons and daughters cannot be broken, but He seeks us out to heal the broken fellowship and bring us home. We also heard that we must “Believe in Love”, and trust that God’s love for us does not stop simply because we have done something bad, or because we don’t feel His love at work at this very moment. And we heard that when it all falls apart, love repairs broken fellowship by seeing what’s wrong, providing what’s needed for life, and giving a way to come back home.
Continuing on our journey toward the Paschal feast, as we “Fall in Love Again,” we see that God’s love is “Always and Forever.” What good is it for us to “Fall in Love Again” if we’re just going to be let down? In the love the God and we share, the only let down that happens are the ones that we ourselves bring about. God is at His essence immutable—He is unchanged, unchanging, and unchangeable. “He does not change like shifting shadows” (Jas. 1:17).
One of the most important words in all of the Old Testament is ḥeseḏ, which is God’s steadfast love, His loving-kindness, the “Always and Forever” love of God in the Covenant with His people Israel. In the Third Commandment, God promised His love to 1,000 generations of those who love Him and keep His commandments (Ex. 20:6). God proclaimed it when Israel had sinned with the golden calf (Ex. 34:6,7). Throughout the Old Testament, 245 times this word appears (nearly as much as the 256 times agape and agapao are used in the New Testament).
Israel broke faith with God over and over again, but God restored Israel time and time again. He sent them the Judges, and then Saul, and then David and his line, and then the prophets. This Friday in the Daily Office, we’ll read about this: “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lam. 3:22,23).
Man’s love is fickle. Man’s love isn’t “always and forever,” it is “now and for as long as it suits me.”
The chief priests and teachers of the law were not, as a whole, moved to love by Jesus, thought they were at first curious about Him. They questioned Him about why He didn’t fast (Mt. 9:14), and they were shocked that He did “work” on the Sabbath (Mt. 12:1). They began to challenge Jesus, demanding, “Teacher, we want to see a miraculous sign from you” (Mt. 12:38). Finally, they conspired to have him arrested and killed (Mt. 26:3–5).
The crowds mostly liked Jesus, perhaps they even loved Him. They were constantly amazed at the power and authority of Jesus’ teaching and the miracles He performed. When Jesus fed the 5,000 and the 4,000, great crowds heard Him and saw the miraculous healings (Mt. 14:13–21, 15:29–39). At the Triumphal Entry, the people heralded Him the Messiah. “Hosanna to the Son of David. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest” (Mt. 21:9). But before the end of the week, then they turned on him. “Barabbas!” the people cried, as Jesus stood silently and watched. “Crucify!” they shouted as the One they hailed the Son of David stood before them.
Even Jesus’ own friends, His closest companions left him. The Twelve had been with Jesus for three years in close companionship. They knew Him; they had heard His sacred Heart beat. They knew the sound of His voice and the twinkle of His eye. But Judas betrayed Him, and the Twelve became Eleven. Jesus took the Eleven to Gethsemane, and then brought Peter, James, and John with Him a little further. And they desired sleep more than Him, and they couldn’t watch with Him for even one hour (Mt. 26:40). And then the Eleven became one: “Then all the disciples deserted him and fled” (Mt. 26:56). “But Peter followed him at a distance” (Mt. 26:58). And finally even Peter betrayed the Lord. “And Peter went outside and wept bitterly” (Mt. 26:75). And one became none. Such is man’s love.