Is it possible to really love? Are my limits and my evil perhaps too strong of an objection? The church offers us a way to learn to love with freedom.

“This house is teaching me how to love,” said a seminarian a few days ago.  It is a simple but very true statement.  Deep down our life is fulfilled within the possibility of loving in truth, and the Church wants to educate us to experience an affection realized. 
The Church educates us first and foremost because it helps us discover that we are loved. “The discovery that one is loved,” Fr. Massimo Camisasca writes, “is much more illuminating than the experience of loving.”  It is more illuminating because it frees us from doubting our own value, thus permitting us to give of ourselves without reservation.
     I once met a women who was scarred by her own evil.  After living years of violence and pleasure sought after in selfishness, having wounded herself and many others, she had been gripped by a deep sadness and by a disgust for her own life.  She repeated to me, almost obsessively, “I have a filthy heart; I can’t love anyone anymore.” When one is disgusted by oneself, one is unable to love oneself.  Why give myself to another if what I have to offer has no value to me?
The embrace of the Church, the grace of the sacraments, the experience of a home which welcomes me and of friends who share life with me, all reveal to me that my value is greater than what I have done and what I can do. Our infinite value was revealed on the cross when Christ died for man, the sinner. He loved me and gave himself for me, as St. Paul would say, full of gratitude.  Only in the light of Christ’s love does one discover the sense of Christian love.  Thus the Church educates us to love precisely because it invites us to do so.  The way of charity has been its proposal from the very beginning. The educative wisdom of Fr. Giussani translated this invitation into the gesture of charitable work.  This revealed to many young people that life is life when one loves– when one gives of oneself to another. 
     The Church educates us to love by proposing a love without reservation, free of selfishness and affective personal advantage.  This is what makes it so fascinating.  Let us bear in mind the actions of Christ. He loved man without holding anything back, and thus could not but propose an equally radical love. In our individualistic culture, the only sacrifices that hold any value are those directed at affirming oneself– sacrifices for money, for one’s career, for one’s course of action, for autonomy, etc.  The Church teaches living sacrifice as a path to affirm the other, in giving oneself for the beloved and for one’s children, for one’s friends and enemies, for who suffers, for who is alone.  For whoever God puts on our path. Lovers of everyone, because we are lovers of God. Even to the point of choosing a vocation of chastity. Even to the point of the extreme sacrifice of one’s own life, as so many martyrs continue to bear witness. To love is to give oneself until the very end, just as Christ did. One theologian from the 1900s wrote, “Until love excludes death, it is none other than a game: we give ourselves, but then we get ourselves back.”
This is the fascinating paradox of Christian charity: I sacrifice myself for you, and in this my life is fulfilled. 

Photo ©Elio e Stefano Ciol – all rights reserved.

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