My note from Sunday was about Psalm 22, a beautiful though painful song that Jesus intones or invokes from His cross. I had originally wanted to talk about Psalm 22 and its ties to Philippians 2 which is the accompanying New Testament second reading from Palm Sunday. That would have made for a very lengthy post, so I cut out all of the mentions of Philippians 2. Now, I just cannot resist mentioning a few things about this second song that we read during mass. Philippians 2 is mostly a “Pauline Christological hymn”, what that means is that Paul was referencing a song about Christ that the early Christian community would have known. This was most likely a song that early Christians had used to evangelize or perhaps even sung at their masses on Sunday!
You probably recognize this beautiful passage, of Jesus humbling Himself and taking the form of a slave, that He did not regard equality with God something to be grasped at, and that at the name of Jesus every knee shall bend! Even reading it in english allows for a bit of a rhythmic beauty to naturally rise out of Paul’s words. This passage is basically a miniature course in Christianity 101. It reveals the “spiritual physics” of the Triune God. It also lays out the whole purpose of Jesus’ life and therefore what should be the purpose of ours, namely glorifying the Heavenly Father.
God’s love is “kenotic”, that is He empties Himself so completely for the one He loves that we can say truly that He just is love, He just is gift. He does not demand something in return for His love, though it is a joy to receive love when it is offered, He just loves. Do me a favor, think of even the very best relationship you have in your life, perhaps your relationship with your spouse, your friend, maybe even your relationship with God. In that relationship do you love in a manner that is beyond expectation? Do you love without wanting or expecting something in return? Many of us, even in very good and healthy relationships, still love in a manner that is well intentioned but boils down to being a very complicated form of mutual ‘use’.
Perhaps a couple enjoys being married because they have the same social goals, they like the routine and stability it gives and the marriage certainly affords both of them the social status and comfort that they both want, they had never talked about their relationship like that but if they did, they would find that their goals were always about something else, not love. Perhaps the couple is married “for the kids” and their care for their children is their primary grounding for the relationship. That is noble and again well-intentioned but it is still a bit short from what they vowed to each other during their wedding. Perhaps in your relationship with God, you love passionately and live prayerfully as long as He keeps blessing your life. If blessings dried up, would that be a sign that love is gone too? What happened to good times and bad, sickness and health? Shouldn’t our love for the divine bridegroom be even greater than any earthly marital love?
In this song in Philippians 2, Jesus shows perfectly how to love. He humbles Himself, this is not about Him except in what He can offer in love! He was obedient even to death, even to death on a cross! This is not about His immediate pleasure, this is not about what He can get or what He wants right now! It is only about love and trust. Ultimately, we hear that the Father loves Him perfectly in return and exalts Jesus and therefore Heaven, Earth, and even those under the Earth praise this person of absolute love. Yet even then, the gift of love glorified, still gives greater glory to the Father.
I don’t want that to seem abstract, IT IS NOT! Think of it like this, when you love your friend for who they are, when you love what they love and humble yourself to share of yourself with them, you not only can give of yourself joyfully in friendship you rejoice in the joy of your friend. What normally happens is that then your friend naturally opens up in return and finds it joyful to love you or another and that love brings even greater joy, and it is joy upon joy upon joy all in the manner that you two give of yourselves. Maybe even more clearly, when a marriage is healthy, the love between a husband and wife actually creates the space for their children to thrive. When a husband and wife love each other in a holy manner, their children are called up into imitation of that holiness. They are taught that love is a life that you are called into for the sake of another, and that happens to bring great joy!
Christ loves His Father. He loves the will of His heavenly Father. He loves the Church, and wills to make her perfect. My friends, too often our love is shortsighted either out of selfishness or fear! We stunt or cripple our relationships with people and with God because we worry about whether we will get anything out of it, we worry if upon giving of ourselves if there will be anything left for us! No, no, no! That is sin talking! Look to the example of Jesus and see that this song is only about love and trust! Love must give itself away! Love grows only in gift-form! So, we sing the praises of Jesus forever and always... to the Glory of God the Father!