Love and the “Law of the Gift”
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
On this 5th Sunday of Easter we hear Jesus say to his disciples, “I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.”
Love is at the heart of the Christian faith. But does the modern-day meaning of “love” mean the same thing as what Jesus was talking about? What does true love look like?
Present-day depictions of love are almost always connected with romance and even eroticism. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, in his encyclical Deus Caritas Est (God is Love) affirms that the Church is not opposed to “eros,” the attraction to beauty and sexuality, often accompanied by a desire to possess the other, but affirms that eros is merely the first step to something much better. Eros is purified by “agape,” the Greek word for love in the Bible; a selfless love that wills the good of the other, as other, and does not seek its own advantage. Agape is, in the New Testament, the love of God for man and man for God.
Jesus calls his disciples to “agape,” to love as He loves – to a love that is not about possessing, dominating or getting something out of a relationship – but is about the giving of self for the good of the other. St. Pope John Paul II’s writings speak of the “law of the gift” which found expression in the documents of Vatican II’s teaching, “Man finds himself only by making himself a sincere gift to others” (Gaudium et Spes, no. 24). Being a gift to others has a certain cost, a certain required self-denial, but one that bears abundant fruit.
Lastly, true love is always rooted in the truth. Jesus was not merely “nice” to everyone. He loved everyone, but He spoke the truth plainly and because He did, many chose to depart from Him because they did not like hearing the truth. True love must always be grounded in truth.
Sincerely yours in Christ Jesus, the Way, the Truth and the Life,