The Gift of Ourselves

I recently had the opportunity to read Henri Nouwen’s spiritual classic, The Life of the Beloved. In the book, he reflects on how we are each individually “the beloved” of God, an identity which should shape every aspect of our human experience. Nouwen further asserts that our full humanity is only realized in our gift of self to others, for “our greatest fulfillment lies in giving ourselves to others.”

Nouwen’s insights reveal a clear connection to Jesus’ teachings in today’s Gospel. After predicting his own impending suffering, death, and resurrection, Jesus links them to the conditions of discipleship: “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it” (Lk 9: 23-24). In enduring the suffering of the cross to accomplish our salvation, Jesus reveals the fundamental mystery of Christianity that death is the path to life.

Jesus’ directives in the Gospel call each of us then to embrace the notion that dying to self is in fact the way to new life - both eternal life in the next and fullness of life in the here and now. The familiar adage to “take up your cross” is typically used as a call to endure the sufferings that we encounter throughout our lives. In another sense, though, it challenges us to follow Jesus’ example of sacrificial love. By willingly taking up the cross, Jesus modeled total, self-giving love. Luke’s emphasis on the daily demands of discipleship compels us to consider the continual opportunities we are given to give of ourselves in selfless service to others. 

In discerning what Lenten practices to adopt this year, I recognized that in some years I have inadvertently turned the season of Lent into a sort of 40-day personal challenge that I could accomplish by Easter Sunday. The timing of today’s Gospel reading at the beginning of Lent acts as a reminder that our Lenten observances should be viewed in the context of our overall journey of discipleship. With that perspective, I am reflecting on how God is calling me to more fully give of myself to the people He has placed in my life through my vocations as a wife, mother, and teacher. Nouwen suggests that “our life itself is the greatest gift to give” to others. As we enter into this season of sacrifice, may God grant us the grace to more generously share our time, our presence, and our very selves with those that He has entrusted to us.

Author: Danielle Bianchi, Theology Department


Popular Posts