In our text for the second reading this Sunday, possibly a hymn of the day quoted by Paul in his letter, we have a beautiful statement of the double nature of Jesus as both God and man. The Second Person of the Trinity, while retaining his divine nature, “emptied himself” of the marvelous qualities and abilities attached to that divine nature (all-knowing, omnipresent, all-powerful, and, according to Jewish tradition, immune to death) and took on our human nature, as we hear in Eucharistic Prayer IV, becoming “a man like us in all things but sin.” In this total self-giving, Jesus both expresses the depth of God’s love for us and calls us to glory with him by a similar detachment of self out of love for God and others. Jesus surrendered his immunity to death by becoming human so as to be able to die the death we deserve for all our sins. “No greater love has anyone” says Jesus in John chapter 15, than to lay down his life for those he loves, and he was soon to put those words into action.
The example he gave of humility and self-giving love is used by Paul in his letter to the Philippians to call the community to greater humility and sacrificial love themselves. One of my favorite Christian songs has a chorus that goes: “When I look at the cross, all I see is love, love, love. When I stop at the cross, I can see the love of God.” Then the verse goes on: “But I can’t see empire building, or the abuse of authority. I can’t see backstabbing or competition or hatred or anger.”
This weekend (Passion Sunday) we are brought face to face with the Passion of Jesus. What do we see in his suffering and death on the cross?