A not so simple little explanation of love



A reader, who prefers to remain anonymous, tells me in a moving letter of her difficulty in understanding my weekly remarks that I have the chance to make here, and at the same time, curiously, of the feeling that grips her of “To be worth nothing, to be nothing, to have nothing to hope for”. With this poignant feeling which can cross us all one day or another, she associates her difficulty to find a meaning, to interpret. She writes to ask me, she said, “A simple explanation of Christian love”. I understand that she would like to hear something of this love which could have a meaning in the relief of her intimate and so human distress. This very simple word that admits fatigue, the nonsense of having to endure a life that refuses the joy of living. It has been several months, my friends, that I have tried to answer him, in vain. Today I risk these few words which only claim an open dialogue. I would tell him that Christianity is an infinite and unconditional attention to the humanity of man, since the God whom Christians recognize has abandoned himself to humanity by an act of radical deprivation of his own divine sovereignty, by inhabiting all of humanity, to the point of taking from humanity what it abandons of itself, when it becomes its own negation, relegating, excluding, denying humanity in its differences, its lacks, its absences, its difficulties, its blacknesses as its weaknesses … That is to say that the divinity, confessed creator of the sky and the earth, can then recognize itself only in this act of abandonment of itself to the whole freedom of his creature. If there is a God, it is he who abandons himself to the abandoned, denied, misunderstood, rejected human person. Where humanity accepts less humanity, where humanity prefers to hate or exclude, where humanity works with less dignity of itself, the divinity raises hatred as poverty, exclusion as indignity. This “son of humanity”, to use the evangelical expression uios tou anthropou, and who is “in the Father as the Father is in the Son”, according to the Gospel of John (“Like you, Father, you are in me, and as I am in you”, Jn 17:21) is itself for humanity, for our humanity, giving and sharing. The Son is free. He dispenses the thanks. This word thanks mysteriously names the only possible answer to what holds us back in lack and wandering, as my correspondent reminds us. Christianity then invites us to recognize our essential need for gratuity, suitable for ensuring the fullness of a good life in this world. My desires may be endless, but the means to satisfy them are finite. Only gratuity gives an answer to the infinity of my desires because nothing limits the good when it is free. The Greek word charis (grace) etymologically designates what is dear, cherished, kind, tender. Greek terms charis and charein express the pleasure of being, the satisfaction of fully existing. Yes, what we miss so often. This thanks which allows a human being to live, no longer in spite of, but with, by going through all that he is or does. It is the work of love, constantly giving a chance to someone who stumbles, who feels prevented, who hopes for nothing. The real mystery and the real power of love is this gratuitousness of the very act of loving. When we give in, when we abandon ourselves to deprivation, to lack, sometimes to obliteration, to feel loved for that very reason, to feel all the more loved in those moments. But I am well aware that my answer is clumsy. May my discreet correspondent please forgive me.

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