The Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI, has offered us the biblical theme that guides our Holy Week Reflection. Together with our Blessed Mother Mary and the Apostle John on Calvary, close to Jesus forsaken and crucified, the Holy Father offers the biblical theme from John 19/37: “They shall look on him whom they have crucified.”
In this week of prayer and penance, let us direct our gaze on Jesus Christ, Crucified, whom the sins of mankind, from Adam to our time, have crucified, but whose passion and death have restored to us new life and the forgiveness of our sins.
There on the cross, Jesus revealed fully for us the love of God. Pope Benedict XVI in his Encyclical Deus Caritas Est dwells on the two fundamental manifestations of God’s love: love as Agape and love as Eros.
Agape is self-giving love, self-sacrificing love, looking exclusively for the good of the person loved. The love which we experience from God is undoubtedly agape. He has given us everything that we are and everything that we have. We cannot give to God anything that he does not possess or that did not come from him. Everything is a divine gift to us.
But God’s love is also eros. Love-eros is possessive-love, needing-love; it is the love of someone who wants to possess what he/she needs; it is the love of someone who wants to be united with the person loved. Pope Benedict XVI said “God’s love is also eros.” And he recalls the image used by the prophet Hosea: God’s divine passion for man, God’s love for us is like the love of a dutiful husband for his wife who has become unfaithful; or the love of a dutiful wife towards her adulterous husband. How timely and appropriate is the image used by the prophet Hosea even for our time.
Even in the midst of our infidelity and sinfulness, God never wavered in his love for us. The mystery of the cross, the image of Christ crucified reveals to us God’s powerful and merciful love in all its fullness. In order to win back our love, in order to redeem us from the effects and punishments of our sins, God sent his only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, to be the immortal image of God’s Agape and Eros, God’s desire to give and God’s desire to possess. The Holy Father asks, “Is there more ‘mad eros’ than that which led the Son of God to make himself one with us even to the point of suffering as His own the consequences of our offenses?”
“They shall look on Him whom they have pierced.” Let us look at Christ whom we have pierced in the cross! The unsurpassed expression of God’ love. The sacrifice of our heroes for the fatherland, the martyrdom of the saints, the pain and the hurts that we suffer for one another or for our beloved country, are but a pale glimmer of that love shown in the Cross. Agape and Eros: self-giving love, and love that seeks to possess, far from being opposed, enlighten and compliment each other.
In this Holy Week, we are challenged to become a force, to become ourselves manifestations of God’s agape and eros, as Jesus Christ is and the saints were. Pope Benedict XVI says: “The response the Lord ardently desires of us is above all that we welcome His love and allow ourselves to be drawn to him. Accepting his love, however, is not enough. We need to respond to such love and devote ourselves to communicating it to others. Christ ‘draws me to himself’ in order to unite himself to me, so that I learn to love the brothers with his own love.”
Let us stand up to the challenge of God’s agape and God’s eros. The image is no less than that of Jesus Crucified, “Him whom they have pierced.” Agape—love of giving to the beloved. Eros—love of being united with the beloved, through mutual understanding, mutual forgiveness, mutual self-giving.
Let us stand up to the challenge of agape and eros, and make it a motivation to develop the “civilization of love” into a culture of collaboration, solidarity and communion. Show this in your respective families, making them schools of love. Show this in your respective classrooms, making your classrooms homes of collaboration, and communion.
Show this in your work. Make your profession channels of God’s love through you.
Let us stand up to the challenge of rebuilding our democratic institutions by discovering and actually doing our positive share in renewing our society.
Archbishop Angel N. Lagdameo
Archbishop of Jaro
March 28, 2007