By Fr. Roy Cimagala
IT’S in the First Letter of St. John where we are given some ideas about what true love involves. (cfr. 1 Jn 3,11-21) This love, if genuine, will always be a participation of the love God has for us. And how is this love expressed?
“We know the love of God in this way,” St. John said. “Because he laid down his life for us, so we must lay down our lives for our brothers.” And then proceeded describing it by saying: “Whoever possesses the goods of this world, and sees his brother to be in need, and yet closes his heart to him, in what way does the love of God abide in him? Let us not love in words only, but in works and in truth.”
St. John concluded this description of true love by saying that by so loving, we would be in the truth and we can confidently commend our hearts to God. “If our heart does not reproach us, we can have confidence toward God,” he said.
We should love the way God through Christ loves us. This is the only way we can say are truly loving. We should be ready to go through the whole scope of love as shown to us by Christ. Of course, it is a love that can only be achieved when we truly identify ourselves with Christ.
That means we should always be focused on doing God’s will in everything that we think, desire, say and do, and also in everything that takes place in our life. This is how Christ showed his love for the Father and for us.
In this regard, we should try to forget ourselves and think always of doing the will of God, following the example of Christ, and of thinking always of the others—thinking of what we can do for them. Love should not just be in intentions, but should be translated into action.
In this, we should overcome whatever fear and doubt we may have regarding the wisdom of this description of true love. We should be ready to make sacrifices and even to complicate our life. We have been reassured that whatever may appear as a loss because of our self-giving will actually gain us a lot of what is proper for us as children of God, sharers of his divine life and nature.
True love involves giving ourselves totally and selflessly without expecting any return. This is how we should give if we want to follow the example of Christ. We have to give to others not only things but also our own selves without expecting any recognition nor any reward.
We have to make an effort, always asking, of course, for the grace of God first of all, so that we can learn to assume this attitude with respect to our self-giving. In the end, this will make us to be like Christ who gave himself totally to us, including giving his life for our sins.
Let’s remember what he told his disciples: “Freely you have received, freely you have to give.” (Mt 10,8) Gratuitousness should characterize our self-giving to God and to others, just as gratuitousness characterizes God’s love for us. Such gratuitousness will gain us much more than what we give away.
In this regard, we have to do some continuing battle against our unavoidable tendency to be calculating in our self-giving.