Saturday, March 23, 2013

Life!

Jesus says, “whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.” And in this passage, the word “life” implies the whole of one’s “self,” one’s very person insofar as one feels a satisfaction in mere self-possession.

Why does God require this of us? There is always some part of us that feels that this is just asking too much. I don't even know what it means to "lose myself."

But this is not simply a moral exhortation that Jesus pronounces. Indeed, it is crucial for us to realize that this is not an external mandate that is merely imposed upon us.

It is not as if we could have been happy as human persons by living a life of rational and courteous self-interest, if only the omnipotent God had not decreed this alien and seemingly unnatural requirement of total self-sacrifice as a “condition” for earning some future happiness.

At some level, I am continually tempted to view it in this way. God wants "all of me" but I don't want to give "all of me...yet." This is where the bargaining starts. I want to find some way to give God "enough" for the day so that I can just keep the rest of myself and seek the things I want.

I am afraid to abandon myself completely to God, because I don't trust Him enough. But life is a school in self-abandonment, and God teaches us by His grace to give ourselves. It is original sin, and our own sins, that cause us to fear “losing” ourselves and to perceive this as a suffering that diminishes us.

God teaches us that the need to "lose ourselves" is not an external, imposed command of some capricious omnipotence. Rather, it is at the very heart of what it means "to exist," because existing is a participation in the mystery of Infinite Love.

What we must begin to learn is that “going beyond ourselves” and becoming, continually, a self-gift is the only way that we can truly exist as persons. Persons are created to exist in relationship. Our spiritual intelligence and freedom are the capacities to adhere to reality and “go out of ourselves” in the affirmation of our relation to reality, and in free, loving communion with other persons and God. We lose ourselves, we give ourselves away...not to oppression and slavery, but to the mystery of love, of a fulfillment of existing.

This is “life”!

2 comments:

Brian Gill said...

Oh, spiffy. Now I'll have to *think* about this.

Thanks! :)

Emily C. Hurt said...

Thanks for this very thoughtful post...and very appropriate to think about during Holy Week!