One of the realities that Passion Week points to is the depth of love that motivated Jesus to, as Paul tells us, empty himself of his God form "taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness." In that human form he humbled himself and became obedient, to the Father, even to death on a cross.
I find it difficult to grasp that reality because the radical difference between the nature of God and the nature of the human person makes it hard to comprehend the degree of gift that is inherent in Jesus' action.
So when I put that mystery of his surrender and obedience to the Father next to the fact that we are to imitate Jesus in loving as he did, it seems impossible to find a parallel in our human lives in which to follow in his steps.
But in the beautiful economy of God's design, those things essential to learn are always built into the fundamental nature of human life. And so too with this.
It seems to me that the heart of Jesus' gift of self to humankind, as expressed in Paul's letter to the Philippians, was to freely surrender his rights and his freedom to choose; obediently responding to the demands of love. When I think of it in those terms, I'm reminded of the transforming experience of becoming a parent.
When I became a mother, it was as though all the other aspects of my life decreased in importance. The things I wanted for myself became secondary to making sure that this tiny person received everything she needed to be secure and healthy.
If it meant spending weeks in a hospital by a sick child's bed, then that is what would be done. If it meant getting up every two hours at night, month after month, then I did my best to do it without a show of a grumble.
I hear stories sometimes of parents who get angry every time their baby wakes them, and I grieve for them that they have yet to accept the opportunity to allow their love of their child to motivate them to lay aside their own plans, rights and comforts in order to give a better life to their little one.
While those were exhausting years, they were years that I learned something about love and the gift of self.
Now I see the next generation around me living in that same self-giving way; quick to sacrifice their right to live as they choose and choose to live for a little one. I can't help but see that experience as a small image of Jesus' gift to us, the gift that led him to the cross.
Our role, then, is to take the opportunities before us and live a life of surrender and obedience. Mother Teresa reminded us, that it was not the great things that we were to do, but the small things with great love.
(Kathleen Giffin firstname.lastname@example.org)