DESIRING to manifest to the world the great love which Thou hadst towards us, O most long-suffering and merciful Lord, Thy evangelist S. John writes that Thou didst so love it that Thou gavest Thy only-begotten Son for it.[John. iii. 16.] The cause of Thy having shown to the world such singular mercy was no other than the great love which Thou didst feel, since it was love that made Thee give Thy Son. If we consider Who it is that loves, we shall find that he [S. John] says it was Thyself, my God, and the creature that Thou lovest is the world; and that which Thou givest to the world as a testimony of the love which Thou bearest towards it is Thy only-begotten Son. He Who loves is Thyself, O Lord, Who art God, the Supreme Good, infinite Beneficence, incomprehensible, ineffable and omnipotent, Whose centre is in every place, and Whose circumference or end is nowhere. For Thou, O Lord, Who art without beginning and without end. Who proceedest from none, and upon Whom all things are dependent and from Whom they receive their being, dost love the world. If the Evangelist had said that Thou didst love the angels, that would not have been any great matter, for of them the prophet declares that they are Thy ministers and servants, who do Thy Will.[Ps. ciii. 20-21.] If he had said that Thou lovest righteous men because they keep Thy commandments, we should not have been surprised at that; but it excites great wonder in us that Thou dost fix thine eyes on a rebellious world, the transgressor of Thy precepts, and that Thou lovest the world which is a violator of Thy Divine commandments; since He Who loves is God, and that which is loved is the world. Observe the difference and the inequality which one bears to the other — of God to the world and the world to God. Whoever speaks of the world speaks of weakness and sin, and this in Scripture signifies the world; and whoever mentions sin speaks of sinners, and whoever mentions sinners describes the enemies of God, and whoever speaks of the enemies of God speaks of those who are worthy of hell; and yet although He hates sin He loves sinners. O extraordinary and stupendous example of love! that God being what He is should love the world such as it is! For Thou, my God, being such and so great, art of such goodness that Thou dost not disdain to love a lost world, and to give Thy only-begotten Son as a token of the boundless love which Thou entertainest towards it. So thought Thy holy apostle when he said, in writing to the Romans, "God magnifies His love towards us in that while we were yet sinners He chose to die for us".[Rom. v. 8-9, altered] Thou magnifiest Thy love in loving men, and not only inasmuch as Thou lovest them but also in dying for them while they were sinners and Thine enemies. God so longed for us while we were His enemies that He delivered His Son unto death for our redemption and ransom. If we consider the extent of this love it is impossible to express it. "So greatly," says S. John, "did God love the world." How greatly? No one can possibly say the amount of this "how greatly". The degree of this love is certainly unspeakable, and so he had no words to express it, so that it is without limit or measure. When anything is so great that one cannot make it understood by means of words, the Scripture is accustomed to express it by the word "so". The great sorrow that the Holy Virgin suffered during the three days when she lost her only-begotten Son she betrayed in that word "so," when she said: "Son, wherefore has Thou done so to us?"[Luke ii. 48.] The weariness which the Lord felt when fatigued with His journey He sat down by the well near Sichar, and there came to Him a woman of Samaria, the Evangelist expressed in the words — "being wearied with His journey He sat down so [thus] on the well".[John iv. 6.] The great Divine power which the Redeemer showed when upon the cross with a loud voice He gave up His soul, S. Mark explained when he said, "Indeed this Man was the Son of God".[Mark xv. 39.] O Love, greater than heaven or earth, or all that God has created, since everything else is but a mere cipher in comparison with this love! This sovereign love, this boundless ocean and most profound sea of love wherewith Thou hast loved us, the Evangelist has comprised in that word "so": He so loved: He loved it so much and desired it so much, "that no one can tell the amount of this love, because He so loved that no one can either express or imagine the greatness of that love"; and the Evangelist, in order to declare the great love which Thou, my God, hadst towards the world, measures the love with the gift which Thou hast bestowed on us, which was so great that there is neither weight nor measure which can either weigh or measure it. Thou didst give us Thy only-begotten Son. That gift is equal to Thyself, and Thy pleasures. Thy essence. Thy existence. Thy goodness and riches. It constituted a gift as great as God Himself. The love, then, was as great as the gift. O Lord, Thou didst love the world with a love which was God. Dost Thou love us, O Lord, as Thou dost Thy only-begotten Son, since Thou gavest Him for us out of love? Who then is man that Thou shouldst love him so? What kind of thing is man since Thou dost so magnify him and place him near Thy heart?[Job vii. 17 (altered).] All flesh is grass, and all the glory thereof as the flower of the field and like unto vanity;[Isa. xl. 6, xliii. 24 seq]. and yet with all this wretched man does not fail to offend his God, He being the God that He is, and man being such as you see. In order that no one should think that Thou didst love us with the heart only, or merely in words, the Evangelist points out the infinite character of the love which Thou didst feel for us by saying that Thou gavest Thy only-begotten Son for the world. Thou didst effect for the world all that Thou couldst do, and gavest it all that Thou couldst give. Abraham preformed many services unto Thee; for he quitted his country and his parents,[Gen. xii. 1; Gal. iii. 6.] and as Thy apostle says, he believed, in hope and against hope, that Sarah could conceive; yet with all this, when he offered his son as a sacrifice, Thou didst so regard this service of his that Thou didst appear to forget all the past and didst say to him, "Now I know that thou fearest God, and hast not spared thy only-begotten son for My sake".[Gen. xxii. 12.]. Abraham had served Thee well before this; but now Thou sayest that Thou knowest his goodness, because he laid his hands on the throat of his only son for love of Thee; for all the past did not reach to such a testimony of love as the delivery of his only son unto death for Thy sake. O my God, lover of our souls and sweetness of my life, now I know, my God, how much Thou lovest me, since for love of me Thou hast not withheld Thy only-begotten Son! Consider then, my soul, if these are true signs and most certain proofs of the infinite love which thy God bears towards thee. O bounty and liberality of God; for a Son Whom He had and that One so dear, God gave up for the world; He did not merely lend Him but gave Him! Thus said the prophet Isaias when speaking of the time at which He was given to us in His Nativity: "For a child is born to us, and a Son is given to us, and the government is upon His shoulder, and His Name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, God the Mighty, the Father of the world to come, the Prince of peace".[Isa. ix. 6.] Thus God gave Himself in death to man, that He might confer upon man, through Him, that which He desired. This is what S. Luke relates, viz., that the ruler Pilate, after having resolved to deliver to death the Author of life, gave Him up to the will of His enemies that they might do to Him whatsoever they pleased. Observe, O man, that thou art as much the master of God as of thy own property; and He is thine, and was surrendered up to thee so as not even to wish to die without obtaining thy permission. O inestimable work of love! since in order to bestow life on a slave He delivered His only-begotten Son unto death, and in testimony of the infinite love which He cherished for us gave us His Son, not lending Him but giving Him for us.