Love: The Wholeness of Commitment

The potential wholeness of a personal and participatory relationship with God, with the world, and with other people is the key to the understanding of the Christian perception of the self. So where does this take us when we as Christians try to come to terms with our selves as responsible persons? The self is real insofar as it seeks to grow in relation to God and in its knowledge of the world, of which it is a dimension and within which it is set, and as it works in responsible cooperation with other people. These are not independent functions or attitudes. On the contrary, we are whole persons in each case, not divided beings; we find ourselves in relation to God through affectionate attention to the well-being of creation and with others in the loving acceptance of responsibility for creation’s movement toward perfection. Being and doing are one in the case of God: to live in his image is to aspire to share the same coherence. However, human distinctiveness means that we are aware of the gap between our human being and human doing to which it is necessary to attend.

The wholeness of the Christian understanding of the human is illuminated when we consider the crucial relationships implicit in the experience of love. The challenging nature of what it means to be a loving person is plain when put alongside the Christian belief that humankind is made in the image of God. Christians believe God’s loving purpose is to create a world capable, through human beings, of freely acknowledging his loving authority. The fulfillment of God’s purpose demands, in gratitude, the total commitment of the faithful person’s whole self to creation’s well-being. The incarnation—the loving presence of God in Christ—expresses this: the world of God’s creation can accept the wholeness of what it means for God to be God without threat to the nature of God or the world of human being. The Crucifixion points to the utter reality of God’s commitment: here in Christ is the wholeness of God, not a dimension of the Divine. The Resurrection and ascension point to the eternal, indelible, everpresent character of God’s love.

In order to stimulate a free response to work with God in fulfilling his purpose, God imbues humankind with a sense of its own independent identity. The world is thus given the freedom to live a life of gratitude in response to God’s love through the self-offering of humankind. The Church, the community of faith, reminds itself of this in each celebration of the Eucharist, when it gratefully celebrates and identifies itself with the fact of God’s living and loving presence with his people. Just as God is not divided in his commitment of himself to creating the world, the response of each human being in gratitude to God involves his or her whole self. Each dimension of human experience—intellectual, emotional, aesthetic, moral— contributes to the life of the whole person, not to an aspect of it. It inspires a personal curiosity to explore the world with others and, above all, to know him who is the loving Creator.

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