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Heroic Love

Just Why Did Christ Climb on That Cross?

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By Joley Billa (Jan 22, 2007)
Oh what a privilege it is to be a stubby pencil in the powerful hand of the Awesome God, to speak of the wonders of His love and to proclaim with joy the work He does in us, His beautiful children.

Several years ago I could never have said that. I was much too afraid of God's wrath and judgment.

What peace and joy it is to surrender to the knowledge and truth that God is our beloved friend.

Let me begin by telling you that there is an enormous difference between knowing about God and knowing Him. At 53 years old, I am just beginning to understand the powerful personal love God has for me — and for all of us.

Most of my life I thought God was waiting at the finish line of my life with His book of rules and a very long list of my failings. Knowing my own selfish human nature I dreaded living, and I feared dying.

Every Hail Mary I uttered reminded me that I would need her help at the "hour of our death Amen."

I tried to avoid every sin I could. I was scrupulous in many ways, and during childhood I even tried imagining how I would stand up to the fires of hell. I would turn off all the cold water in my tub so I could practice getting used to the heat! No laughing, please. I am sharing the truth with you.

Then, I moved into adulthood and began to experience true suffering.

We all want the mountaintop experiences — those moments when everything feels right and we are filled with happiness and wonder and excitement. We can see the future for miles, and everything looks so bright and amazing. And we have explosions and epiphanies and harmonious friendships and ... Well, actually, that sounds more like heaven, and then I remembered we are on earth, and earth is a valley of tears. But what I have learned in that valley is much more profound.

Not much grows on top of the mountain, and yet here in the valley of tears is the fertile soil. Our tears water our toil and bring forth spring and abundant fruit.

Here, too, in the valley, we are surrounded by the mountain of God; for there He is, a constant reminder of His steadfast fidelity, enormous strength, and supreme protection.

The more I experienced God's limitless love — love without end, love never counting the cost — the more I desired it.

My husband has a saying: "Me and Jesus, we be mates."

That was how I was beginning to feel. Then, I would invariably stumble upon the scriptures that commanded us to love others as Christ loves us, and I would feel doomed all over again.

I wanted to love the God of scriptures, the Miracle Worker, the Healer, the Patient Listener, the Non-Judger, the Cross Bearer, the Resurrected King. All those notions of Christ moved me and inspired me and made me long for the Kingdom of God. I wanted to go to Heaven, but the huge stumbling block, for me, was always earth and the people on it.

I would argue in my head at Mass when the readings would contradict my thoughts. "If you say you love God, but hate your neighbor, you are a liar; the truth is not in you." And I would say to the Lord, "Then why, Jesus, do you make some people so difficult to love?"

I declared to the Lord that I would gladly climb upon that cross with Him and suffer, and yet I did not know how to love people in that same way.

Recently, Jesus reminded me that a cross has two beams.

One beam goes to Heaven, the other to earth, to the people of God.

Climbing upon that first beam was fine, but submitting to the horizontal one was terrifying. Quite frankly, I did not know how to do it, nor was I too keen to do so. That beam makes you truly immobile. A sitting duck. With your arms pinned down to that beam, you cannot even ward off a blow.

But Jesus, in His tender compassion and pity, places us upon those two crossed beams and showers us with His merciful rays.

And it was there, upon the cross of contradiction, that I finally shouted out, "Oh death, where is thy victory. Oh grave where is thy sting!"

The cross is where we find heroic love, a love that casts out all fear. Jesus knew that for us to give love we must first be loved, and that is why He climbed on that cross first.

Unlimited and absolute love — we all desire it. Thus, only in Him are we able to love without limit, for it is He who is loving in and through us.

Heroic love has delivered me from fear of living and fear of dying.

Joley Billa is a lay evangelist for Eucharistic Apostles of The Divine Mercy.

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mary - Aug 5, 2008

hello my friend I just this and it touched my whole being it was really wonderful and said it clearly.God bless you always.

Joley - Feb 5, 2007

I was soooo moved by your heartfelt words and I understand them deeply in my heart. I too felt many of those feelings. What freed me, what TRULY freed me was when I FINALLY just surrendered my heart to Christ. I had to hand over all my burdens and then turn and walk away confident that Jesus was going to carry them for me. It was no easy thing to do. Actually I fought hard as I did not want to surrender. I liked being in control. But I could hear the most gentle nudge in my soul. The call from Christ was so sweet and kind and urged me always to TRUST."Give your burdens to me", He would beg "Lean on Me for your strength" He would whisper and I would resist because I did not want to let go of the pain. It was mine!!! But when I heard Him say. "Look at those who worship me and see their joy and look at your brokenness and see your tears, Give them to ME." and finally, I just broke down and gave it all to GOD. And Christ, merciful of heart took it all and gave to me in return complete acceptance and mercy and love and THAT is what has transformed me. Give over your pain, sin, tears, struggles and fear. Give it all to the God who loves you soooo much and then, only then will you heal.

anita - Feb 5, 2007

thanks jolie for articulating so well in words the groans of my heart. it was easy to believe and to love when all was well and the distraction of a busy "productive " life kept me on an i'm in control and I'm saved high. now as infirmities, deaths, shattered dreams,dreams i never knew to have, war on children,the preborn and undesireables in short this fallen world and the realization of how sin has infilitrated every facet of my active and interactive life, my thoughts, my lack of service and true love. i need to believe in God's mercy actually i need to want it more than i want the pleasures and praise of this world that i find so much fault with ,despise really and can't wait to leave. i want to do something for Christ but i can't pick anything. so i sit here in a misery of my own making and think i'm being of service by "offering it up" the hardest thing to do is pray because it scares me to spend the time . i feel at the moment my knees touch the ground that i should never rise again that's how much i feel the weight of the need for prayer.yet i pray little. if i can't quench the fire i run from it. i pray to want to be consumed by it and burn till my time here is through. all of my confessors tell me i'm too hard on myself. i know i'm really chained and bound by and to my pride. i feel not God's mercy because i have not really renounced sin, thanks for helping me see this. praise God and please any one reading this say a little prayer for me. peace be to you all, anita

Bob - Jan 25, 2007

Thankyou and please keep writing,you have been given a gift

Joseph Lobo - Jan 24, 2007

A very thought-provoking article about God's immense LOVE for us.....Cheers Joley!!

Dave - Jan 24, 2007

Wonderful article, I have had a difficult time understanding how Jesus could love someone like me who sins, confesses and sins again. I am now reading a book suggested by my confessor "The Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ" by Anne Catherine Emmerich, after reading the account of His Passion in the garden of Gethsemane I now understand a little more clearly the great love Jesus has for we poor sinners and my desire to experiance more of that love has grown tremendously. My desire is to share the knowledge of that love with as many people as I can adn assure all that we are not lost and alone. May God Bless You.

Bryan - Jan 24, 2007

Beautiful article and well articulated thoughts. May God continue to give you strength to help a hurting world.

Linda - Jan 23, 2007

God does love us, and sometimes when we try to love those we like the least, we receive extra grace from God to overcome those feelings of resentment,envy, etc. Joley is a great example of someone who truly tries to live in his mercy and love. Great article.