There is perhaps no word in the English language that is more often used and more often misunderstood than the word that rang out from the Pulpit of the Cross on that day: The simple word, love. Love as the world understands it means to have, to own, to possess: To have that object, to own that thing, to possess that person, for the particular pleasure which it will give. That is not love; that is selfishness; that is sin. Love is not the desire to have, to own, to possess. Love is the desire to be had, to be owned, to be possessed. Love is the giving of oneself for the sake of another. Love as the world understands it, is symbolised by a circle, which is always circumscribed by self. Love as our Lord understands it, is symbolised by the Cross with its arms outstretched even unto infinity to embrace all humanity within its grasp. As long as we have a body, then love can never mean anything else but sacrifice. That is why we speak of “arrows” and “darts” of love — something that wounds.
But if love, in its highest reaches, means sacrifice, then these words of Our Blessed Lord from the Cross are the climax of Love’s ways with unloving men. Love did not keep the secret of Its goodness — that was creation. Love became one with the one loved — and that was the Incarnation. But if Love had merely stopped with God becoming man, we might say that God did not do everything He could do to show His love; we might say that He was like the heathen gods that sat indifferent to the woes and ills and heartaches of the world and hence never drew from the heart of man a beat of love. If Divine Love stopped after merely appearing amongst us, man might say that God could never understand the sufferings and the loneliness of a human heart; that a God could not love as men do, namely, to the point of sacrifice. If, therefore, Love was to give of its fullness, it must express Itself even to the point of sacrificing Itself for the salvation and redemption of mankind. If, therefore, He who suffered on Calvary, He who was now preaching from the Pulpit of the Cross, were not God but a mere creature or a mere man, then there must be creatures in this world better and nobler than God. Shall man who toils for his fellowman, suffers for him, and if needs be dies for him, be capable of doing that which God cannot do? Should this noblest form of love, which is sacrifice, be possible to sinful man, and yet impossible to a perfectly good God? Shall we say that the martyr sprinkling the sands of the Colosseum with his blood, the soldier dying for his country, the missionary spending himself and being spent for the good of heathens — aye, and more, shall we say that those women, martyrs by pain, who in little hovels and lowly cottages have sacrificed all the joys of life for the sake of simple duties and little charities, unnoticed and unknown by all save God — shall we say that all those, who from the beginning of the world have shown forth the beauty of sacrifice, have no Divine prototype in heaven? That they have been capable of displaying a nobler form of love than He who made them? That they have shown greater love than Love Itself? Shall we say this? Or shall we say with John and Paul, that if man can be so good, God must be infinitely better; that if man can love so much, God can love infinitely more? Shall we not say this, and find in the Cross of Calvary the perfect expression of love by an All-Perfect Being, of whom perfect condescension and sacrifice were required by naught in heaven or earth save by His own perfect and inconceivable love which He now preaches from the Pulpit of the Cross? If we do say this, that He is very God of very God, and love is now reaching its climax in the redemption of mankind, then no longer can men say, “Why does God send men into the world to be miserable when He is happy?” — for the God-man is miserable now. No longer can men say, “God makes me suffer pain while He goes through none” — for the God-man is now enduring pain to the utmost. No longer can men say that God has a heart that cannot understand, for now His own Sacred Heart understands what it is to be abandoned by God and man as He suffers — suspended between the kingdoms of both, between heaven and earth, rejected by one and abandoned by the other. Now it is true to say of Love Itself that It is really dying for us, for greater love than this no man hath that a man lay down his life for his friend.
—Venerable Abp. Fulton J. Sheen, The Divine Romance: The Pulpit of the Cross