This article is abridged from id’s November Disciples’ Night. The original talk can be viewed here.
By Sr. Lucia Christi, SV
Jesus “came that they may have life and have it more abundantly” (Jn 10:10). He teaches us how to live life to the full: Receive the gift of your life. Give yourself away. And live in gratitude.
Receive the Gift of Your Life
A young man invited St. Francis of Assisi to stay at his house and at night kept an eye cracked open to see what the saint would do. After a while, Francis knelt and prayed: “Who are you, God, and who am I?” Francis repeated this over and over. The young man was so moved by this saint’s love for his Lord, he joined the friars.
Francis wasn’t afraid to ask the deepest questions of his heart. Our hearts ask these questions too. Thankfully, God has revealed Himself to us. God made everything in the first five days of creation with us in mind. On day six, He made Adam and Eve and gave all of that to us as a gift so He could be in relationship with us. He is the God of the universe, but his heart longed for you.
God loves you with an infinite and personal love in a way that He doesn’t love anyone else. He sees in you a unique and unrepeatable image of his Son.
Give Yourself Away
Jesus commanded, “Love one another as I have loved you” (Jn 13:34). He added, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (Jn 15:13). Love is choosing the good of another over my own good, and it’s perfected in the cross.
God designed our hearts after his own heart; we experience our greatest freedom and joy when we give ourselves in this way. St. John Paul II said, “Man cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of self.”
A woman shared with me that she came to New York City to find a fresh start, experience what she wanted in life, and do what would make her happy. Then, she found herself pregnant and abandoned. Slowly, she received the grace to let go of the dreams she had when she came to New York. She said, “I’m learning true love is sacrifice. I’m going to be making sacrifices every day for the rest of my life for this baby, and I’m going to start now.”
Praise the Lord—she gets it. She was made to do something great with her love, and she found joy in doing exactly that and pouring out her love completely as a mother.
The world thirsts for your love. Your heart reflects a piece of God’s heart that others can only know through you. Ask God, “How have you made my heart to love? How do you desire that I give myself away to make your love known in the world?” Then, be not afraid. Life to the full is cruciform, but the cross always ends in the resurrection.
You can start right now in little ways: smile at a shy person, do dishes for your family, stay close to a friend having a hard day. Filling each moment with love allows us to live life to the full even amid suffering.
“What do you possess that you have not received?” (1 Cor 4:7) Everything is a gift from God’s loving hand. When we cling to what we have as if we’ve earned it ourselves, grasp for more possessions, or reject God’s gifts, we are unfaithful to who we are as children of God. We must remain grounded in the reality that without Him we can do nothing and that our Father knows our every need and withholds nothing from us.
Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross was a Jewish convert killed in the gas chambers. She wrote, “Things were in God’s plan which I had not planned at all. I am coming to the living faith and conviction that—from God’s point of view—there is no chance and that the whole of my life, down to every detail, has been mapped out in God’s divine providence and makes complete and perfect sense in God’s all-seeing eyes.” This is faith. This is the disposition of gratitude lived in even the most difficult circumstances.
We also can learn to see everything—even our deepest sufferings—as part of God’s good plan for our lives. When we learn to see the world this way, no evil can truly harm us and no one can steal our joy.