One of the scribes came to Jesus and asked him,
“Which is the first of all the commandments?”
Jesus replied, “The first is this:
Hear, O Israel!
The Lord our God is Lord alone!
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart,
with all your soul,
with all your mind,
and with all your strength.
The second is this:
You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
There is no other commandment greater than these.”
The scribe said to him, “Well said, teacher.
You are right in saying,
He is One and there is no other than he.
And to love him with all your heart,
with all your understanding,
with all your strength,
and to love your neighbor as yourself
is worth more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”
And when Jesus saw that he answered with understanding,
he said to him,
“You are not far from the Kingdom of God.”
And no one dared to ask him any more questions.
We should expect to hear about love on a lenten friday. Believers, of course, recall the passion of Jesus on all the fridays of the year, but the lenten fridays are special days to prepare for the Friday called Good. That was a day of love.
On that day the great commandment Jesus preached was fulfilled in a striking way. Historians, scholars, artists approach the mystery of his passion and death from so many perspectives. The gospels and Christian tradition dwell on it in great detail. It is a fascinating conclusion to a fascinating life.
But the question Why did Jesus suffer such a death? can only be answered by recognizing it as his response to the command of love. Jesus accepted the cross with love for his heavenly Father and love for us, who were there when he was crucified.
The cross was not something Jesus endured, he embraced it with his whole heart, his whole mind and all his strength. At his cross, we stand before Love.