INSIDE america

Friendship and Sacrifice
Since friendships centered in Christ are the fruit of His victory over our inability to love, it is through these that we are educated in the meaning of sacrifice

You cannot love “humankind.” You cannot love “women” or “men.” You can only love particular men and women. You cannot love concepts. You can only love concrete, particular realities. Love does not grow from the universal to the particular. It is the other way around. Love expands from the particular. “The one who does not love his brother, whom he can see, cannot love God, whom he cannot see” (1 Jn 4,20). The love of abstractions is characteristic of ideology. Love of reality is an event, an encounter with another who is not the creation of our minds. Love of the particular opens up to embrace others by following the path of sacrifice. The opposite of the path of sacrifice is the path of selfish possession.
The path of selfish possession is the path of lust. Jesus said that to “look with lust” at another is to commit “adultery in the heart.” It is the matter of “looking” and of “heart.” The “intention” with which we “look” at what attracts us reflects the condition of our “heart,” the condition of our self-awareness, of who we are as defined by the Destiny for which we were created. If my “look” at what I desire is in harmony with my Destiny, if it is defined by my Destiny, then it is not lustful; it is not manipulative. Rather, it is open to, and affirmative of the other’s truth–that is, of the other’s own Destiny. Loving this Destiny in a particular person teaches me to love it in others. The problem is that none of us is in perfect harmony with our Destiny.
As a consequence of the mystery of original sin, our “looking” and desiring are wounded. That is why the path of love is the path of sacrifice. Sacrifice is respect for the truth of the other. Sacrifice is the very opposite of indifference or insensibility.
Indifference and insensibility are the forced crushing of our desires, and this is worth nothing. It doesn’t save us from anything.
It further wounds our humanity. The only path that is truly human is the path from desire to love, and this is the path of sacrifice. Sacrifice is not a matter of “giving up” what we love. On the contrary, it is a matter of preserving it from corruption. Without sacrifice, what we love corrupts in our very hands. This can only be understood because of Christ, because of His sacrifice, because this is how He revealed to us the true nature of love. “Love consists in this: not that we have loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as the sacrificial victim for our sins” (Ibid., 10). We do not learn this from words; rather, we experience it when we encounter Christ. It is then that we recognize Divine Love as our Destiny and discover what it means to be a human being, what it means to love as human beings. We discover that our vocation is “in the heart of the Church, to be love,” as St Therese of Lisieux said.
The Holy Spirit, the gift of the Risen Christ, makes present the victory of His sacrificial love by giving us a new identity, a new awareness of our Destiny, a new heart, and thus a new way of desiring that is not destructive because it corresponds to the truth of our humanity.
The Holy Spirit makes Christ present as the pivotal point of all our relationships. They become “celebrations” of the reality of Christ. Our friendships become a celebration of the evidence that the ultimate reality that constitutes our happiness exists, that it has become human flesh, that it is Jesus Christ, the event of Christ.
Since friendships centered in Christ are the fruit of His victory over the corruption of our desires and our inability to love, it is through these that we are educated in the meaning of sacrifice and supported in its path as the path to love. True friendship is expressed in the way friends help each other to celebrate the presence of Christ and accept the condition that makes it operative in us, namely, the path of sacrificial love. There is no other way. We cannot do it alone.