The Greatest Gift of All

Relationships are messy. Human interactions are painful and hard many times. We, even with the best intentions, tend to hurt one another at times, too. In the midst of many challenges and obstacles, it often seems like the easiest and most appealing route is to recede to one’s self instead of caring for others. While it seems very tempting to only worry about ourselves and ignore others, we know deep within that it is not who we are nor what we are called to be.

We are meant for more because we are each created by the love of God. He willed and formed us with His love. Our faith teaches us that our God is not just some random or ambiguous deity, He is the God of love, for within Himself exists the communion of love — Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We are loved, meant and called to love, because our Creator God is love! The inner-Trinitarian communion of Lover, Beloved, and Love reminds us of the eternal, everlasting, and powerful love that gives life to all living things. Unlike other mythologies where one is told that humans were created as a mistake, through a conflict, in a negative light, or as an afterthought by the gods, our Christian faith teaches us that the life-giving love of the Trinity within Himself outpours and gives life to all things, especially to us as the pinnacle of His creation.  Therefore, as human beings created in His image and likeness, we are called to reflect the love of God to all, especially among ourselves as we nurture the loving communion among us by the giving of ourselves.

The Trappist mystic, Fr. Thomas Merton, O.S.C.O., echoing numerous examples and teachings of the saints, beautifully wrote a book named, No Man Is an Island. Even though relationships are messy and it is so easy to get hurt, we can never really find ourselves completely happy and at peace by ourselves forever. There is always a deep yearning and desire to love, give ourselves, and seek communion with others. Why? Because we were not created nor meant to be alone! Just as we did not create ourselves, we, therefore, cannot be by ourselves. We were created by the loving God who is within Himself the Trinity of three distinct persons who gives to one another wholly and completely the gift of self. Therefore, when He has created us, He has instilled in us the ontological vocation, desire, and calling to give the gift of ourselves to others in love as well. No matter how much we try to deny it, we can only be happy and fulfilled when we are able to embrace a genuine, loving, and caring relationship that respect, give, and nurture one another.

That is why without true respect, care, and compassion, everyone ends up unhappy and frustrated because genuine gifts of self cannot be given and received wholeheartedly. Without intimate and loving dialogue, everyone remains locked behind their own pitiful selves, bitter, resentful, and willing to hurt others. And this where I believe we failed in the post-modern world! All want love and to be loved, yet not many are willing to be true, genuine, and vulnerable with one another because many are scared of being used. That is why we simply talk much about love, but at the end of the day, we simply “talk the talk” while letting ourselves be caught in the game of manipulation. It is too easy to use or manipulate others to get what we want, or even to give the excuse of protecting ourselves from getting hurt, yet those things all end up being destructive and divisive to human relationship, even at the basic level, because we can no longer trust one another. Somewhere along the way, too many of us have lost the fundamental foundation to will the good of the other! Hence, once that is lost, everything and everyone simply becomes a chess piece and to be objectified or manipulated for our personal goods. Once we lost the desire to will and desire the good of the other person and the greater good of all, even if it means to sacrifice ourselves, we stay lock ourselves behind our own fears and come to each other only with pseudo-relationships based on particular goals or benefits.

When we no longer desire communion with other people that is based on respect, compassion, and care, we remain each our own islands. Once we stopped to take risks in order to will the good of the other person, the relationship is fake and only acts as a perverted codependency that is based on a particular good, goal, or objectification. When there is no desire to be true, to be genuine, and to be vulnerable with one another, our moral compass will be out of touch, misguided, and we end up lost with our own self-created, yet conflicted interests and goods because we do not know what we really want. Many people will end up frustrated and angry, yet they project or transfer their anger and frustration on other things or people. Many people will talk much about love and lofty ideals, yet they simply remain talk since no one is willing to dare to walk the talk! Many people will talk and give ideas of how to make things better but they only end up hearing themselves because no one else really believes or listens nor cares enough to take risks to love. At the end of the day, we will only end up talking at each other when we get frustrated or to each other get something done, but no one can talk with one another because no one is willing to spend time, care, truly listen, give empathy, desire, and will to give the gift of themselves.

As we are about to begin a new year, many people will have a lot of lofty resolutions. May I dare ask how many of those goals or resolutions go beyond one’s self, personal desired goods, or particular goals? It is not too late for we still have time to pray, reflect, and discern what we can do better to truly care, listen, give, nurture, and respect one another as to strengthen, deepen, and make efforts to seek the divine presence among our relationships with others. We can always choose to give the greatest gift of all, which is the gift of our own vulnerability as we choose to care, be genuine, loving, and committed in letting the love of God be enlivened through us and in every one of our encounters with others. Let us truly desire and seek to build up the loving sense of communion among ourselves.

The Lord Jesus Christ reminded us that our works are seen and judged by the fruits that they will bear. (cf. Matthew 7:15-20) Therefore, let us work and desire to nurture everything in our lives so they will bear lasting fruits of love. Instead of doubting others and isolating ourselves because we are scared of getting hurt, we can choose to love and care for those who are around us like the Lord by being with the people who were around Him. Instead of manipulating other people to get what we want, we can choose to be genuine and give the gift of ourselves totally and completely to all. We can all choose to retribute or to rise above the self-centered reactions that naturally come when things do not go our way. We can choose to react to what is given to us with the same (or greater) amount of force or vengeance, or we can choose to respectfully pray about how to respond with the same attitude and mind of Christ.

Even in our own struggles, life is always worth living because of the wonderful opportunities that are present in it. While it is easy to shut off, eradicate, or take vengeance on those whom we do not like, we are called to love them in the hurt. In our own lives, we will perhaps have to go through numerous occasions of betrayal, rejection, abandonment, and suffering caused by the things of this world and the people around us. Instead of seeking vengeance, retribution, manipulation, or isolation, we can choose to love, to forgive, to practice mercy and compassion by overcoming the evils given to us by the powerful love of God. We can all choose to give others what is the most beautiful, powerful, and unimaginable in the eye of the world by giving the personal, caring, and loving gift of ourselves to all. Remember that when we truly pray, reflect, and discern our words and actions, life and deeds, we give to others the greatest gift of all, which is all that we have and are in God our loving Creator! Therefore, let us not be afraid, but to choose to give, share, nurture, and cherish this divine gift of love as we seek and help one another in each other’s life and faith journeys.