Think of the most self-giving person you know. Is she a joyful person? Is he someone you like to be with? Someone you would like to emulate in your life?
For myself, I know that having children taught me about being a self-giving person…being willing to put my own needs aside – gladly – for the sake of another human being (or, these days, for our dogs!). Because children’s needs are so clear and unvarnished, they help us step out of our self-absorbed selves and respond to them with care and generosity. It’s not that our own needs or desires are gone – we still struggle with the tension between what we want and what others need. But children are good teachers in this journey.
I’m not just talking about parents, either. I think of my nursery school teacher, Mrs. Bennett, who instilled in me a love of music (accordion!) and of French…all at the age of 4. Or my fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Reinehr, who was so full of life and love that she gave me a zeal for learning that stays with me today. And Maggie and Colin’s godmother, DeeDee Allen, who has shown them a consistent and generous love of a non-parent adult in their lives.There are many in our own community who work in public service, forgoing financial remuneration in order to serve the common good.
Then there are the many people who risk their very lives in service to others – fire and police officers, the soldiers we pray for every Sunday, the medical people who responded to the ebola crisis. What drives these people? As Christians, we see the life of Jesus as an example, a motivator to give of ourselves, without counting the cost, for the life of other people and the life of the world.
On this last Sunday in our series on human relationships, we reflect on the self-giving life that Jesus demonstrates for us. This is fitting as we turn our spirits toward the season of Lent. The Gospel is paradoxical at its root, and therefore it often makes little sense to the world’s wisdom. But we who know Jesus understand that it is through self-giving – giving ourselves away – that we in fact gain real fullness of life and joy. This is why we can say that the way of the Cross is the way of life. JBM