Tag Archives: self-love

And Ye Would Not

It ain’t always pretty.

Matthew 23:37

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!

Love doesn’t always look like a fluffy little bunny or a bouquet of pretty flowers. Sometimes, love comes as a heavy burden, or an injection of medicine, or a strong arm that knocks you to the ground just in time. Jesus is like this.

We often like to think of the Resurrection only. We have images of Jesus looking all bright and shiny and handsome, smiling, with his arms open wide in welcome – setting aside images of Jesus stripped, beaten, bloodied, his arms forced apart and nailed to a wooden beam. We’ll think of Jesus during his earthly ministry with little children gathered at his feet and blind people being gently touched by his soft hand – and not think of the whip in the temple or the rough carpenter’s hands praying in agony.

I have even seen Crosses that bear upon them an image of the Resurrected Christ, fully clothed. What’s with that???risen-christ-on-cross

That moment in the Bible when Jesus beckons the little children to come to him – this is not a purely happy moment filled with pleasant niceties. It comes with a rebuke. The disciples want to shoo away the youngsters, who are generally seen as a distracting nuisance – but Jesus says, “No.” He goes against the grain, disrupts the general practice of the time, upsets social protocol, and gathers the children to him. In the divine eyes of Jesus, every human being is a child – His own beloved child, whom He wants to hold in His arms and love unconditionally. In our modern time, to the people who, perhaps, make children over-precious and nearly adore them, this makes perfect sense. Of course Jesus wants innocent and lovely children near him. But… Jesus also wants the outcast and reviled near him. Jesus lovingly wills to die next to two thieves being executed for their crimes. Do we think of that? This is true love of humanity.

Why, then, did Jesus drive the money changers out of the temple with a scourge that he made out of cords? (John 2:15) Why did he not have mercy and forgiveness upon them and just give them a big old hug? Jesus did have mercy and forgiveness upon them – he did what he did for love of them. He spoke to them in a language that they could understand about the wickedness of their acts and the dark path down which they were leading themselves and the people. This is a moment in the Bible when we can see Jesus as most obviously human – one of us. He is upset by the callous, unloving intentions and methods of the money changers, who are not interested in helping the people to be reconciled with God. Their interest is in making a personal financial profit from people’s desire for God, using the religious laws of the time to their self-centered advantage. This cannot stand. I’m thinking that Jesus is so filled with justified anger that he cannot humanly utter a pretty speech to sway them. This is the time for Jesus to use his muscles, muscles formed hard and strong from laboring in manual construction, and shake open the eyes of the drowsing, slap the petty and cruel upside the head, and zealously protect and cleanse the Sacred Place of his Father with a show of human force. I suppose that he could have turned all of the money changers into gnutes or rained fire and brimstone upon their heads – but, instead, he did what any one of us human beings could do… and, perhaps, should do: disrupt the status quo.

Nobody likes to be told that what he or she is doing is wrong, even when it is wrong. Nobody enjoys changing his or her comfortable life for a promised, but unseen, improvement. We are naturally drawn to the comfortable, the soft, the easy, the shiny, the entertaining and sensually pleasing – yet, we are supernaturally drawn to the truth, to true love, to God. There is nothing more sublime, perfectly beautiful, and fully pleasing than God and true relationship with God – but that relationship requires a disruption of physical comfort, self-centered desires, and mundane niceties… in order to truly love.

The Savior of the World cannot simply be an extraordinarily good man who sets a lasting example of kindness, patience, and a generous sharing of resources. The Savior of the World cannot merely come to make the world a prettier place – but to set it free from such a cheap desire. How else can God get through to us and break us from our habit of, and addiction to, self-centered pleasure? How else can God work with human hands, through all times and in all places, to lovingly hold the suffering and lead the wandering home? How else can God show us the fullness of what we human beings can be, except to become one of us and to give Himself so completely and utterly to us in unconditional love that he lets us torture and beat him, ridicule and reject him, and kill him like a common thief? The dead body of God-Incarnate hanging on a cross speaks more profoundly than any Sacred Book that could ever be written, more intimately than any lightning bolt Revelation from the sky, and more fully and truly than any radiant smile of the depths of divine love and how utterly God wants to gather us to Him.ChristCrucified-father-Barron

We stone prophets. That’s what we do. We “kill the messenger”. That’s what we do. God knows. And God loves us so much that He is willing to let us do that to Him. God loves us so much that He sends His Only Begotten Son to us – to do with what we will. Christ loves us so much that he is willing for us not to like him. He is willing for us to be annoyed with him, to mock him, to try to drive him over the edge of a cliff. He is willing for us to kill him, for he will do what he has come to do – he will love us. He will show us the way to deepest and truest joy, he will become the way. Jesus gives us the promise of things yet unseen and does not couch it in niceties. He gives his very body and blood for us to gnaw upon – and if we refuse to understand it, then he is willing to let us walk away. He will not force us to love him in return, he will not force us into his arms. But, he will weep for us, weeping tears of blood, and he will be vulnerable for us, pierced through in the excruciating pain of crucifixion. And the first sign of the veracity of his promise will be an empty tomb.

© 2015 Christina Chase

Advertisements

Nigh Unto Me

What do I want?

Matthew 15:8

This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.

What is your goal in life? What do you spend most of your time, energy, and talents toward? I seem to answer the first question one way but then the second one in another. For, I say that my goal in life is to be the person that God created me to be. But, then, if I look at where I spend most of my time, energy, and talents, it seems as though I want something else. It seems as though what I truly want is material comfort/security and the pleasure of aesthetics – and, when I’m really ambitious, the praise of others. Did God create me to be comfortablNighe? Did God create me to be lulled in contentment? Did God create me to win compliments?

I am created in order to know, love, and serve… To know, love, and serve what? Myself? My pleasure sensors? My ego? Oh, what a limited life I would live then, blind and deaf to the fullness of reality, crippled in my existence. Such was my endeavor once. As a committed atheist, I saw no meaning to life, to existence, and so did whatever I wanted, thought whatever I wanted, making up my own meaning for my own purposes. I lived for myself. I humorously (but seriously) saw myself as the center of the universe – everything that existed before me was mere prologue; everything that exists after me, mere epilogue; everything that exists with me, mere background. And why not, since, at that time, I thought that there was no center to the universe anyway, no center to anything? Looking back at myself then, I see that I was a very selfish person. Self-centeredness is something that I always have to deal with in my personality but, then, as an atheist, I could let it run rampant and become a kind of religion. The doctrines of Looking out for Number One, What’s in It for Me, and If It Feels Good Do It were all I needed to live the life that I wanted, to be happy.

Or so I thought. However, I could not be a rational and serious person and shut out the Source of Life forever. If I had stopped thinking altogether and just go on feeling without thoughts beyond my own comfort and pleasure, I may have remained an atheist. If I hadn’t wanted the truth, if I hadn’t wanted to know what really is, then I could have kept my ignorance. But, the whole reason that I became an atheist was in order to find the truth, was in order to know reality as it really is. I thought that there was no such thing as God. And I was right – in a way. God is no thing. Rather, that which we call God… IS. One day, sitting beneath the grape arbor, I let my thoughts, my focus, go deeply into the reality around me – green leaves golden in the sun, long grasses in the breeze, birdsong up in the trees, and, pealing back the layers of sound, the silence of nothing behind reality. And it was in that silence that I became aware… that I knew. Without words or images or sensations or emotions, I knew. Infinite… Eternal… Present Presence… Being Itself…. I wanted to be an atheist again for the lack of complications and (as I see more clearly now) for the centering of the universe in me. But, I could never be self-centered again without knowing that I was in error. I did not invent myself. I did not create myself. Everything that I can see and hear and taste and smell and touch did not come from me or from my parents or from bacteria. There is Silence beyond silence… the Uncaused Cause, the Uncreated Creator, the Unmoved Mover… and, much to my surprise, I came to understand the truth of “the ultimate reality that everyone calls God.”

What did I want then, after that epiphany? To know. And to know Truth really is to love. And to really love is to serve – that is, to be who I was created to be. To believe in God is not to merely profess with our lips a set of tenets that we think are true, nor to assent with our intellects to those tenets. To believe in God is to accept the reality of my existence, who I am. I – with my self-centered pleasures and pride – am not the end-all and be-all. I come from somewhere. I come from someone. From Pembroke and from my parents – but, if I open my eyes and my ears fully, if I dare to look up from my life and step out of my own way, then I understand that everything in life comes from the same Infinite/Eternal Source, born forth in the creative power of loving. Something out of nothing – by the sheer will of Being Itself.

To say all this is one thing. To live all this is quite another. I can say that I believe in God and explain how one can “prove” God’s existence until the cows come home. But, to know is to love. God, who is all-knowing, is all-loving. The Fullness of Being whom we speak of as God cannot be grasped, cannot be avoided, cannot be controlled – cannot be denied without denying reality itself. What I want, then, is to be where God is… And where is God? God is nowhere… now here… everywhere… God cannot be pinned down… or flattered, or appeased, or manipulated in any way. For God is love, pure love, pure loving. Perhaps the better question is Where am I?

Where is my heart? Where is the center of my living life, the core of my principles, the aim of my pursuits? The question is not only on whom do I depend for life itself – but also, to whom do I turn whenever there is any question? What is the pulse of my life, with what beat am I keeping time? The life that flows through me is the love that flows through me and I am not its source. The source of the universe(s), the source of existence, flows life, sustenance, love through all – and what do we do? Where do we go? There is no escape from the Infinite/Eternal One, and yet we would keep our hearts for ourselves so that we may satisfy our own self-centered pleasures and pride; and yet we would try to hide our vulnerability from the One who loves us into existence and hoard up things to fill the void left from turning away from our Source.

So that the One who loves us into existence might not seem to be far from us in our sensory-dependent blindness, God became one of us. Christ Jesus lived in humility, unknown by most of those who passed him by. His beloved disciple leaned his head against Christ’s heart one day and asked, “Who is it, Lord?” The young man wanted to know which of the disciples was going to be the one to betray Jesus by selling him out to those who wanted to get rid of him. Shall I banish Him as well so that I may seek my own self-centered pursuits?… I bow my head this day and rest upon the heart of love, the heart of reality, the heart of life, and I ask my Lord and my God, “Is it I?”

May my heart always burn with love for Him who is the Lord and seek shelter in His ever-generous, all-consuming love. Lord, may I seek only You, want only You… let my heart not be far from yours…

Christina Chase

Of Your Fire

“What will fear drive you to do?”  A poem inspired by a random piece of Scripture and the burns I still bear…

Isaiah 50:11

Behold, all ye that kindle a fire, that compass yourselves about with sparks: walk in the light of your fire, and in the sparks that ye have kindled. This shall ye have of mine hand; ye shall lie down in sorrow.

Loneliness and sorrow settle on me like the night;

no moon or stars to guide me in the darkness of my woe.

Deep in the woods of melancholy,

deep in the woods of fear – who will ever find me here?

I am alone in the pitch black of my mind, in the pitch black of my heart,

desperate in my need to see and be seen.

 

Here is tinder ready at hand, the shadows and phantoms that haunt me in the dark;

and here the flint rock of my hardened fear, upon which I strike, with terrored force,

my desire, my craving, my yearning of basest urge.

I must fight the darkness of this world and not let it consume me.

I must set fire to the dry and hollow of this place and have it burn.

 

Sparks fly up from my own flesh – see? I am not alone –

the heat of ash and burning embers are stars and moon of my own making,

I walk in the light of pride, guided by my own burning.

Mistaking the pain for love and the searing for union,

I dance in the flames of self-kindling, chopped up into little bits of fuel.

Conceit and distrust spread the fire all through me,

what doesn’t char and crumble is melting into the ground,

and yet, the monstrous spectres do not burn away – they are in the fire, they are in my hands,

they are in my eyes and ears and nose and mouth, choking me…

I am suffocating in smoke.

 

Had I only waited…

had I only made my home in the loneliness

instead of burning my way out;

had I only listened for the night sounds, not terrible and creeping,

but, deeper in the forest of my discontent, the voice

of living water running deep, the song of the Source

singing the night… singing the coming dawn…

singing me, who was never alone.

Christina Chase

 

Not Avenge

What do we want most from others for ourselves?  I think it’s mercy…

Leviticus 19:18

Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the LORD.

I am human and I make mistakes.  A lot of them.  Not being God and, therefore, not being perfect, I am bound to have flaws, to get things wrong, and to do things that I wish I wouldn’t do.  Sometimes, as I am responding to my loved one, I will hear the words coming out of my mouth and wish them back just as they hit the air.  My words can be mean – petty, spiteful, downright cruel.  And in that moment, with my murderous speech hanging between the two of us, my heart drops down into the pit of my stomach and I hold my breath, begging silently for mercy.

It’s not often that the dagger slashes of my tongue are received with warmth and kindness – okay, not ever.  My loved one feels the pain, I hurt her, I hurt him, and the love they feel for me gets locked down inside of them and they harden with anger, putting up their defenses, whipping out weapons of their own.  Often, in the deadly speechlessness of their heavy, raging sigh, arrows shoot out their eyes and I feel myself cowering.  But I don’t cower.  I don’t apologize or try to console or make it up somehow.  I just want – need – to be forgiven.  More than anything I want to be spared the wrath of vengeance I have spurred.

Yet… What do I do when someone is mean to me?  What do I do when someone’s rash words cause me pain or, worse, when someone’s willful act of cruelty slices through me?  I’ll tell you what I do – I give it right back.  They say hell hath no fury like a woman scorned and I well believe it.  Though, to be fair and clear, I have inherited from my father a violence of temper unmatched by my mother’s in tamed and deep-seated force.  Please don’t misunderstand me – my family is not physically violent in any way.  I thank God there is no abuse of that kind in my home.  Even if, however, our angry responses don’t rise to the level of abuse, physical or verbal, we still find ways to seriously hurt each other.  The only thing that saves us from dysfunction and despair is the depth of our love – not only for each other, but also for ourselves.  We know how to be cruel, but we also know how to be merciful.

To “love thy neighbor as thyself” is to follow the golden rule by treating one’s fellow human beings the way that one wants to be treated oneself.  If we want to be forgiven by our loved ones when we say or do things to hurt them, then we should be ready to forgive them when they hurt us.  We react and respond too often out of anger, frustration and irritation.  We let our fears get the best of us and we irrationally take it out on the people who love us the most.  We are sorry when we do this, sometimes right away, sometimes several days later, and sometimes not until our loved ones show us the harm that we have done.  We bump against and batter each other, causing damage.  Efforts to minimize the friction and to repair the breaks and dents are good.  But, really, sometimes a person can be so hurt by another’s willful act of cruelty that only God can repair the damage.  My friend, who has suffered from every kind of abuse, once told me that there are some wounds that only God’s love can heal.

It’s God’s healing love that we truly want more than anything.  We want that divide between flawed humanity and perfect divinity to be bound up so that we may know wholeness.  To be who we are created to be, we cannot wallow in worldliness, we cannot inflict each other – and so inflict ourselves – with vengeance and destruction and violent dominance.  We must look past pain to the source of all joy.  Every tongue lashing is the scourging agony of a whipped back.  Every act of selfishness is the piercing of a crown of thorns.  Every cruel twist is a spike driven through the flesh.  God knows.

To stand one’s ground in the face of cruelty is not an act of unkindness.  To let the mean one know the pain that the meanness is causing is the right and kind thing to do.  But, what is one’s ground?  Is it vengeance?  Is it to give back as good as one gets?  Or is one’s ground love?  When my loved one meets my cruel words with silence and a look that tells me how wrong I was, I feel more penitence than I do when my unkindness is met with matching rage.  There’s something within me that will not allow me to learn or grow or improve under force and aggression.  That something is the divine image in which I am created.  That something is my soul.  I was created by God with the gift of free will.  I was created by God to reflect divinity into the world.  Not to reflect my own self, my offended pride, my insulted ego – but divinity, I am made to reflect God.  I am fearfully and wonderfully made, exquisitely beautiful in the eyes of the Infinite Eternal One and I will love myself as He loves me.  I will love my God-given ability to love, I will love my God-given capacity to forgive, I will love the gift of healing that God has given me.  And then, and only then, will I love, forgive, and heal.  I am not the Lord.  I shall not lord myself over anyone.  I shall receive, rather, the Lordship of God deep in my heart and through my whole being, becoming the person that the LORD created me to be.  Merciful.  Merciful is God, giving me perfect love when I do not deserve it.  And merciful am I created to be.

To forgive is to not forget that another person is capable of cruelty, but, rather, to remember that I am likewise capable.  To forgive is not to condone the hurtful behavior of another person, but, rather, to foster love and healing behavior within me – and so the world.  To forgive is to receive and share God.

Christina Chase

First

“Fools rush in where angels fear to tread”…

Matthew 19:30

But many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first.

Often, on the force of my emotions (especially anger or anxiety) I throw myself headlong into something – a loud argument, an inflicting pain competition, a grabby/bossy controlfest, or a full-blown panic attack.  I know that I am very self-centered in these moments and that my actions and reactions are all about me.  This can also happen when I’m overwhelmed with desire for pleasure, for then I will manipulate people and situations to get what I want, ignoring the small, still voice within that is telling me that I shouldn’t.  When the force of anger, anxiety, stress, greed, or lust are given full sway, our hearts get swamped, drowning the voice of our better angels.

There are moments in our lives when immediate action is necessary.  Moments when we should follow our natural instincts and do what comes naturally.  These are times when we see a loved one in immediate danger and we rush forward to assist, to save.  Or when we see a stranger being beaten mercilessly and we stand up and speak out against the injustice.  Or when someone falls and we reach out a hand, without even thinking, to catch him.  I’m thinking that there might be other moments, too… But I can’t think of any right now.  All that I can think of are these moments – these moments of love.

If the building we are in catches fire, our instinct is to get the heck out.  That’s a good natural instinct, all about self-preservation – self-preservation itself is not a bad thing, for we exist for good reason.  If we know that there are other people in the fire, people that may not know of the danger, or people who are trapped and unable to escape, then perhaps we will not run out of the building so quickly.  We may hesitate, wanting to help the others, but the inner call to flee will most often overwhelm us.  Perhaps, outside of the building, still thinking about the others inside, we will be overcome with a sense of responsibility and, yes, a sense of guilt.  Then, we might summon the courage and the bravery to overcome our instincts and walk back into the burning building.  Firefighters walk into burning buildings all the time.  But they need to receive training that will help them to overcome their natural instincts in order to fight the blaze and save people – they also have lots of protective gear and equipment, which is extremely helpful.  But, even with training, precautions, and fireproof materials, firefighters still continually die in the course of performing their duties.  Every person who joins a fire department knows the risk.  And people still join every day, still rush into blazes from which non-firefighters are fleeing.

The point is that human beings are able to do brave and beautiful things with love and responsibility.  We are not all perfect right out of the box.  We grow, learn and develop.  And, hopefully, we learn the importance of love and develop the willingness and the desire to give ourselves in true love and to receive the presence of others as priceless gift, and so, be responsible to and for each other.  We human beings have an amazing capacity for selflessness, generosity, and courage.  This is the humanity that Jesus Christ holds up when he is nailed on the Cross.  All goodness in us, all godliness in us, we too easily leave behind when we are rushing in to fulfill our selfish desires.  But Christ not only reminds us of who we were created to be, but he also sanctifies who we are: broken, weak, even scared, but willing to sacrifice ourselves to save others.  Christ did this in a singular act that is for all time – for Jesus is not only fully human, but also fully divine, and so all of his actions are initiated and infused with and by Infinite Eternity.  We can do it, too, though in smaller, less universally significant ways that are no less important because they are caught up with Christ’s sacrifice for all.

When a stranger jumps in front of a speeding truck to push a pedestrian out of its path to safety, or when you take the arm of an elderly person who is climbing steps in order to give assistance, or when I hold my tongue when my mother is annoying me greatly though she means only to help me – we are Christ.  We do not put ourselves first.  We don’t let the strength of our self-centered emotions or instincts overtake us.  We weaken our instincts for self-preservation or even for self gratification so that we may be strong in love.  Love is the greatest and most indomitable force out there.  And it’s in here, right in here, right inside of me.  Love is my strength, my goodness, my beauty, my courage, my salvation, my joy, my glory – precisely because it isn’t mine.  I do not possess love nor do I have a claim upon it that is exclusive of others.  Love is given to me from Love Itself.  Love is the reason that I exist.  Love is why I am formed.  Love is infused in me by grace.  Love flows out from me to others, to the other – but only if I will it.  If I listen first to worldliness, to the flesh, to self-centeredness, to me, myself, and I, then I put my true self last.  I put love – true love, love that is given and received, agape, divine love –  at the bottom of my list of priorities.  And then I fail as a human being.  For love is first and will always be first.  Though our self-centeredness may place love last as we rush in to be first, in the end, God makes all things right.

Note: this is not any kind of an exegesis or explanation of the scriptural verse.  This is just a Burst – biblically inspired reflections of the moment.

Christina Chase

Thou Shalt Love

Luke 10:27

And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself.

So many times – too many times – people think that Christianity is all about rules.  I’m a member of the Catholic Church (Roman Rite) so I hear the rules criticism all the time in the Media.  Gratefully, I understand that Christianity is not about rules.  Christianity is about love.  Now, I don’t in any way mean that the Commandments should be thrown out – quite the contrary.  The 10 Commandments given to Moses by God should be embraced – should be loved.  The essence of what God is asking us to do is to be who God created us to be: persons of love.  First and foremost we must embrace the truth that God is love.  And we, being created in the image and likeness of God, are images and likenesses of love.

That’s a whole lot of use of the word love in one paragraph… But… what is love?

Love is the gift of self.

Before the universe existed, God IS.  God is Being Itself and generously gives this beingness to what He creates, to what is not strictly God Godself – to what is other than God.  This generous giving of self to the other is true gift.  And God created “man in His own image; male and female He created them.”[i]  God is One, there is only one God, and, in our limited human understanding, we Christians believe in one God in three Divine Persons.  The Holy Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, has been described as Lover (loving), Beloved (loved), and Love (the communion between and within lover and beloved).  As human persons we are given, by God, not only the ability to love as God loves, giving and receiving, but also the very identity of love itself.  Pope John Paul II said, “a person is an entity of a sort to which the only proper and adequate way to relate is love.”[ii]

In the book of Genesis we hear God say, “It is not good for man to be alone.”  We are made for loving relationship.  Among all the creatures of God, it is only in our fellow human beings, our fellow Divine images, that we can experience true loving communion – and therefore be truly and wholly ourselves.  No other created being “offers man the basic conditions that make it possible to exist in a relation of reciprocal gift.”[iii] God is love and we are created to be love – and this means that a “person” should never be treated as a means, a way or a tool used to get something else.  If we want to know the truth, then we need to know that persons are gifts of love and are fulfilled only when giving and receiving love, in loving communion with God and with one another.

Sometimes we use the word love in a different kind of way – for things, namely.  I can say, “I love God, I love my parents, I love beauty, I love ice cream” and mean “love” a little differently each time.  When Christ sums up the 10 commandments and reiterates the divine commandment to love God and to love our neighbors as ourselves, he is not speaking of the kind of love in which “we draw to ourselves what is outside of us when by that very love we love things other than ourselves inasmuch as they are useful or delightful to us.”[iv]  Rather, we are being told to love with all our hearts, souls, strength, minds, in a divine way in which “we draw ourselves to what is outside.  For, to those whom we love in that love we are related to as ourselves, communicating ourselves to them in some way.”[v]  So, when I love my neighbor as myself, it is not with the kind of self-love in which I find myself exclusively delightful and seek to please myself – that would be a disordered kind of self-love.  Rather, when I love my neighbor as myself, it is with the kind of love – true love – that is of my very being, that is who I am, being created by Love.  Christ Jesus says, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”[vi] To truly love ourselves, we must remember that God first loved us.  Anytime we want to know who we are created to be, we should look to Jesus Christ, who is fully divine and fully human.  And when we look to Christ, we see true love – for he gives of himself completely – Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity – giving of himself to us.  That’s how we are to love.

When I was younger, I heard of Christian love as sacrificial love.  These days, oddly and sadly, “sacrificial” has taken on some negative connotations, as though we’ve lost the spirit of generosity.  I believe that’s because we’ve lost the sense of who we are – not our own, but God’s own.  This means that we also have taken for granted the gift of life.  And by doing this, we also take for granted the self-gift that is true love.  We love because God first loved us.  To freely and gratefully accept this gift is our first act of love – and we truly accept this gift by loving the Giver.  Not “delighting in” the pleasure of being alive, per se, but by realizing who we are: gifts of divine love.  We realize this by being gifts – by giving.  This true self-awareness is the true and good and right kind of self-love.  It is how we are able to love our neighbors as ourselves.  It is how we are able to love God with all our hearts, souls, strength, and minds.  The giving of ourselves as a gift to the other is also the very “acceptance of the other as a gift.  These two functions of the mutual exchange are deeply connected in the whole process of the “gift of self”: giving and accepting the gift interpenetrate in such a way that the very act of giving becomes acceptance, and acceptance transforms itself into giving.”[vii]

And we don’t give in order to be thanked.  We don’t give in order to get some thing in return, some pleasure or other kind of self-centered prize.  (Although God is good and He has made us so that we may be able to experience true and deep joy when giving and receiving true love.)  And we don’t give because the rules say so!  We don’t give as a kind of blind obedience in order to satisfy the letter of the law.  For we cannot be “blind” if we are loving with our whole heart, with our whole souls, with all of our strength, and with all of our minds.  We are, rather, loving with the entirety of ourselves – because we are giving ourselves entirely.  And the reason that we freely give is because we are free gifts.  The 10 commandments are examples of how we are to love.  It is only if we have no real love, if we merely use others instead of seeing ourselves and others as pure gifts, that we would seek to kill, or lie, or steal, or cheat, or covet, or betray.  The 10 commandments serve as guideposts to help us discern whether or not we are being who we were created to be.

It’s all about true love.


[i] Genesis 1:27

[ii] Wojtyla, Karol.  Love and Responsibility.  Translated by H. T. Willetts. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1981, p. 41

[iii] Wojtyla, Karol.  Man and Woman He Created Them: a Theology of the Body.  Translated by Michael Waldstein.  Boston: Pauline Books & Media, 2006, audience 14:1

[iv] Aquinas, Thomas.  Lectures on John, Chapter 15, Lecture 4, Marietta #2036 from Waldstein, p. 129.

[v] ibid.

[vi] John 15:12

[vii] Wojtyla, Karol.  Man and Woman He Created Them: a Theology of the Body.  Translated by Michael Waldstein.  Boston: Pauline Books & Media, 2006, audience 17:4