God Loved The World That Much
Rev. Dr. Labib Kobti
Only when you really love and make some hard sacrifices in the name of love that you may understand how much God loved us.
We can just pretend that we do understand God's love. "God himself is love" says St John, c1Jo.4:16). Who can understand what is love, what is God? Jesus will say that : "No one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him" (Mt 11:27). Because "No one has ever seen God. The only Son, God, who is at the Father's side, has revealed him" (Jn 1:18).
That love of God was revealed through Jesus, touched and lived by our Lord: "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him might not perish but might have eternal life" (Jn 3:16). St. Paul will say then: "God who did not spare his own Son but handed him over for us all, how will He not also give us everything else along with him" (Rom 8:32).
The Cross of Jesus became that sign of love. Cross and love as much as they could be different realities have the same meanings: Redemption, Salvation, LOVE (in capital letters).
I rememeber once when I was working as a chaplain in a hospital in Beirut during the years of war in Lebanon, I met a women 30-32 years old who was tied on her bed. She had a broken chest, hands and feet, her face was full of wounds. She could barly see me and talk to me. I asked her: what happened? She told me that after mass, that Sunday she was sitting at home at table, about noon with her beloved husband, her wonderful 10 year old daughter, with her mother and sister who joined her mother in law whom came to visit, when suddenly a missile hit her house. Her husband, her daughter, her mother, sister and mother in law were instantly killed. She was the only one who survived and brought to the hospital. Her condition for some days was very critical. I could not stop my tears when her suffering voice was telling me her story. " I made you weep, Father, she said with a deep voice, I am sorry, I do not mean it ... let me console you, Father, you know, just here, in this hospital, so alone, so unconfortable, with myself and with my psychological more than physical sufferings, yes, just here, believe me, I discovered how much God loved the world, how much God is love, yes, God is love". I was unable to realize what she was saying, I was thinking that she should be out of her mind. I wanted to console her, to say to her something, to let her feel that I understand how hard it was for her, that I will be there with the sisters of the hospital to assit her, that I will send the Legion of Mary to visit her daily etc.
Thinking of all what could a priest do to help a woman in a horrible situation, she contiued interrumping my energy to collect ideas and find who should I contact for her. "You know, Father, I discovered how difficult it was for God, the Father, to send his beloved Son Jesus to save us ... I know what I am saying ... it is a great suffering for that wonderful God. God is love, God is love. I am sure of that, I feel it, I do know what it is, I do live it now as I do suffer ... yes that tremendous pain to loose all my beloved ones and especially my innocent angel, my 10 years old daughter, I do know now that God is love ... I wish you can bring me the Eucharist ... I can't go to mass now, but I do need the holy communion". I understood then what that mass of that black Sunday did to her. I understood that prayers and suffering are the best school to understand God's love.
I started to understand the Book of Job, the suferring man and his love of God. I started to understand why martyrs gave their lives with great joy to the loving God. The word of God started to have more and more meaning to me: all is love then and all started with God's love for us: "Beloved let us love each other, because love is of God; everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God, for God is love. In this way the love of God was revealed to us: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might have life through him. In this is love: not that we have loved God, but he loved us and sent his Son in expiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also must love one another. No one has ever seen God. Yet, if we love on another, God remains in us, and his love is brought to perfection in us ... God is love, and whatever remains in love remains in God and God in him" (Jn 4:7-16). Yes, since then I started to understand why we do suffer, why we should bear our heavy daily cross, and accept to share with Jesus the difficults of our life.
I understood that in front of suffering we should smile, and thank. I could then understand the statement of one of the bravest Cardinals of the US Catholic Church, Cardinal Bernardin of Chicago, who said when he first heard that he will be dying of liver cancer: "Thank you God for your special gift ... my prayer is that I will use whatever time is left in a positive way...". Yes love, and only true love, would let us say what saints said in front of suffering and death. Yes, love and only love will help us to build a just world and a wonderful world. "I give you a new commandement: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another" Jn 13:34 Oh God of love, You loved us that much?