“GOD SO LOVED THE WORLD THAT HE GAVE HIS ONLY-BEGOTTEN SON.”
God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son (Jo. iii. 16). God, says Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, loved the world to such a degree that He gave His very Own and only Son that the world might be saved by Him. Let us consider — Who is the Giver; and what is the Gift that is given; and how great the love is with which it is given. We all know that the more exalted the donor is, the more to be prized is the gift. One who receives a flower from a monarch will set a higher value on that flower than on a large amount of money. How much ought we not, then, to prize this gift, coming to us, as it does, from the hands of One Who is God! And what is it that He has given us? His own Son. The love of this God did not content itself with having given us so many good things on this earth, until it had reached the point of giving us its whole self in the Person of the Incarnate Word: “He gave us not a servant, not an Angel, but His own Son,” says St. John Chrysostom. Wherefore Holy Church exultingly exclaims: “O wondrous condescension of Thy mercy in our regard! O inestimable love of charity! That Thou mightest redeem a slave, Thou didst deliver up Thy Son.”
O infinite God, how couldst Thou condescend to exercise towards us so wondrous a compassion! Who shall ever be able to understand an excess so great, that in order to ransom the slave, Thou wast willing to give us Thine only Son? Ah, my kindest Lord, since Thou hast given me the best that Thou hast, it is but just that I should give Thee the best I can. Thou desirest my love: I desire nothing else, but only Thy love. Behold this miserable heart of mine; I consecrate it wholly to Thy love. Depart from my heart, all ye creatures; give place to my God, Who deserves and desires to possess it wholly, and without companions. I love Thee, O God of love; I love Thee above everything: and I desire to love Thee alone, my Creator, my Treasure, my All.
God has given us His Son, and why? For love! Yes, for love alone! For fear of men Pilate gave Jesus up to the Jews: He delivered him up to their will (Luke, xxiii. 25). But the Eternal Father gave His Son to us for the love He bore us: He delivered him up for us all. (Rom. viii. 32). St. Thomas says that “love has the nature of a first gift.” When a present is made us, the first gift we receive is that of the love which the donor offers us in the thing that he gives: because, observes the Angelic Doctor, the one and only reason of every voluntary gift is love; otherwise, when a gift is made for some other end than that of simple affection, the gift can no longer rightly be called a true gift. The gift which the Eternal Father made us of His Son was a true gift, perfectly voluntary, and without any merit of ours; and therefore it is said that the Incarnation of the Word was effected through the operation of the Holy Spirit: that is, through love alone; as the same holy Doctor says: “Through God’s supreme love it was brought to pass, that the Son of God assumed to Himself flesh.”
But not only was it out of pure love that God gave us His Son, He also gave Him to us with an immense love. This is precisely what Jesus wished to signify when He said: God so loved the world (Jo. iii. 16). The word “so,” says St. John Chrysostom, signifies the greatness of the love wherewith God made us this great gift: “The word ‘so’ signifies the vehemence of the love.” And what greater love could One Who was God have been able to give us than was shown by His condemning to death His innocent Son in order to save us miserable sinners? Who spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all (Rom. viii. 32). Had the Eternal Father been capable of suffering pain, what pain would He not have then experienced, when He saw Himself compelled by His justice to condemn that Son, Whom He loved with the same love wherewith He loved Himself, to die by so cruel a death in the midst of so many ignominies? And the Lord willed to bruise him in infirmity (Is. liii. 10). He willed to make Him die consumed by torments and sufferings.
Imagine, then, to yourself that you behold the Eternal Father, with Jesus dead in His arms, and saying to us: This, O men, is My beloved Son, in Whom I have found all My delights: This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased (Matt. iii. 17). Behold how I have willed to see Him ill-treated on account of your iniquities: For the wickedness of my people have I struck him (Is. liii. 8). Behold how I have condemned Him to die upon this Cross, afflicted, and abandoned even by Myself, Who love Him so much. This have I done in order that you may love Me.
O infinite goodness! O infinite mercy! O infinite love! O God of my soul, since Thou didst will that the object most dear to Thy Heart should die for me. I offer to Thee in my own behalf that great sacrifice of Himself which this Thy Son made Thee; and for the sake of His merits I pray Thee to give me the pardon of my sins, Thy love, and Thy paradise. Great as are these graces which I ask of Thee, the offering which I present unto Thee is greater still. For the love of Jesus Christ, O my Father, pardon me and save me. If I have offended Thee in time past, I repent of it above every evil. I now prize Thee, and love Thee, above every good.