25 March 2016

WOULD HE STILL COME?

Good Friday of the Lord’s Passion
Jn 18:1-19:42 (Is 52:13-53:12 / Ps 31 / Heb 4:14-16; 5:7-9)

When I took my oral comprehensive exams in Theology, His Eminence Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle – who was then simply called “Fr. Chito”- was one of the panelists. He asked me, “If man did not sin, would Jesus come?  Would He become human if man did not sin?”  Without any thought, I answered, “Yes, had man not sinned, Jesus would still come.”  Then Fr. Chito followed up with “But why would Jesus come when man did not sin and therefore had no need of redemption?”  With much thought, I wrestled with my years of theological studies but produced no satisfactory answer.  I realized that it was the first time I gave such a consideration any thought at all.  If man did not sin, would Jesus come?

It is quite interesting – and certainly can be the focus of deep reflection – but few, if none at all, take note that Good Friday this year falls on March 25 which is the usual date when we also celebrate the Lord’s Incarnation in the womb of the Blessed Mother.  March 25 is the feast of the Lord’s Annunciation.  Because March 25 this year is Good Friday, the liturgical celebration of the Lord’s Annunciation is moved to the Monday after the Easter Octave – April 4 this year.  But while the actual commemoration of the Lord’s Annunciation is suspended until two weeks, commemorating the Lord’s passion and death on the day we normally celebrate His Incarnation moves us to consider the two mysteries of His life together.  Did Jesus become flesh to save us from sin so that if we had not sinned He would not have become human?  Was it sin that moved the Father to send us His only begotten Son?  Was Jesus born to die?

In the old catechism, the answer to the question “Why did Jesus become man” was “To save us from sin”.  And that “saving us from sin” meant dying on the cross.  Thus, again, the issue: But if we did not sin, would He become man?

Whoever says that Jesus became man to die for our sins – and therefore had we not sinned, Jesus would not have come – actually holds Jesus, and perhaps with not much thought at all, as an addendum in creation.  Such a claim is based on a God having two plans.  Plan A is God’s will for creation fulfilled perfectly to the dot.  Plan B is God’s will for creation derailed and even threatened to be totally ruined by sin but to no worry because He already thought of sending His Son to be our Savior.  But the problem with God having these two plans together is the fact that they mock the very identity of God.  God is perfect and therefore He never executes His will with a contingent plan.  He always has only one plan.  From time immemorial, Jesus’ incarnation has always been part of the Father’s plan for us – sin or no sin.

In Jn 3:16, we read, “For God so loved the world that He gave us His only Son, that whoever believes in Him may not perish but may have eternal life.”  The Gospel is clear that it was not sin that moved God to give us His Son but love.  Such is His love for us that not even sin can hinder Him from giving us everything that He has, including Jesus, His only begotten Son.

Search the Scriptures and see if there is anything written, saying that Jesus came to die.  Even during His passion, when tried by Pilate, Jesus did not say that He was born to die.  Rather in Jn 18:37, He declares that He was born to testify to the truth.  If testifying to the truth meant for Him death, so be it, for Jesus, but still it was not for death the He came to dwell among us.  Therefore, even if man did not sin, Jesus would still come.  But if there were no sin, then Jesus would have not been crucified.

Sin made it difficult for God to love us.  But still He loved us in our darkest.  Sin made suffering and death elements of God’s love for us.  But still He loved us to the very end.  Sin made a cross stand between God and us.  But still He loved us through.

In Jn 10:10, Jesus Himself answers our question.  In the context of His teaching about Him being the Good Shepherd, Jesus declares, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come so that they (the sheep) may have life, and have it to the full.”  Jesus did not come to die; clearly, He Himself says, He came to give life.  Sin made that giving of life in its fullness tremendously and horrendously difficult for Jesus.  The payment for such an inestimable gift is life.  Jesus foots the bill.  He paid it with His own.

We have gathered together this afternoon to simply tell Jesus, “Thank you, Lord.  Thank you po.”  And we make no big promises to Him but plead with Him instead.  We know our selves better now than when we were younger and our minds are proud and our hearts lofty.  Like Simon Peter, not only abandoning the Lord but denying Him – not once but thrice – when the Lord needed him the most, all we can utter in sincerest humility, “Lord, Thou knowest everything.  Thou knowest that I love Thee.”  We pray:

I beg to fall in love with Thee, my Lord
With every breath of life I take
I beg to fall in love with Thee, my Lord
Its every beat, I to Thee forsake

For even if my thoughts fall short of knowing Thee
And even if my will runs terrified
Your passion thins the darkness of my soul
Sheds it light, breathes it life, stills the murmur of the night

For even if my heart falls short of loving Thee
And even if my spirit hides away
Thy love for me surpasses all my fear

All I do, all I am, all that I can ever be
I beg to fall in love with Thee, my Lord
With every breath of life I take
I beg to fall in love with Thee, my Lord
Its every beat, I to Thee forsake

Jesus is not an addendum, an after-thought, an alternative in God’s otherwise perfect plan.  No.  He is the very apex of creation.  From the very beginning the Father intended that His life would come to us through His very own Son.  Even without sin, Jesus would have come, for it was love not sin that gave us Jesus.  The cross is not the cause; instead, the cross is the fruit of God’s love, for even with our sins God loved us unto death.  It was to give us life and life in its fullness that Jesus came and became one like us, except sin.

Now it is our turn to strive to become more and more like Jesus.  Let us love even if crosses are thrown our way.  Let us love the sinner even as we hate sin.  Let us love not because of but inspite of.  Let our love for others not be the fruit of any benefit they give us but the cause of our self-giving to them – deserving or not.  Let our love be life-giving even unto death.  Let us live like Jesus.  Let us love like Him.

March 25 this year does not paint the usual image of the incarnate Jesus in the womb of the Virgin Mother but the site of the lifeless Jesus in the arms of the Blessed Mother.  And today – as always is – we stand by her side who teaches us best to love and live like Him.

O Jesus, living in Mary, come and live in me.  Amen.


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