Gift of Self
Love has two dimensions: emotion and behaviour. We feel an attraction to others so we act on that emotion. Yet, both dimensions can be irrational. The attraction cannot be the sole reason for the activity. After all, lives have changed based upon behaviours in the “heat of the moment.”
This week in John 15:9 Jesus speaks of activity based upon the will of the Father. “Even as the Father has loved me, I also have loved you…… If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love”.
The Father loved the Son by sending Him into the world in order to reveal Himself, a divinity of self-giving. The disciple “remained in my love” when he “kept my commandments” by imitating God’s self-giving. In other words, the measure of Christian love was the cross, Jesus giving up his life for the salvation of the world.
Is self-giving irrational? Some would think so. But, it is exactly this kind of love that brings true joy into life simply because the focus of the activity is on the other, not on the self. In this way it is shared. Christ gave Himself to us with an infectious joy. When we do the same, we share in that joy.
In fact ‘love’ is a choice. For St. Pope John Paul II, love was all about gift. To love someone is to make a gift of yourself to another. Being created in the image of God means that we too are called to become gift. A gift just as God is gift within the inner life of the Trinity and within the heavenly and created world.
We can’t make a gift of ourselves in isolation; we need someone to be a gift for. This is why Adam needed Eve. He needed someone to make a gift of himself to and to make a gift of self to him. It is only in relationships that we can discover and develop our capacity for making a sincere gift of self to God and others.
This gift of self may be unilateral or mutual. When children are very young, the parent-child relationship is a unilateral, or one-sided, gift of self. It is a benevolent love in which the parent has no expectation of having his or her personal needs met. In a mutual gift of self the love is reciprocated. An example is the ideal of the husband and wife relationship, where both make a sincere gift of self to each other – one reason why marriage is a Sacrament but parenthood is not. Marriage, as a reciprocal gift of self, more accurately images the Trinity.
How have we gifted ourselves to others and shared our joy recently?
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