One of the thrills there is in loving is the give and take in the relationship. It is such a pleasure to be able to give and do things for a loved one. And there is even greater pleasure when that giving is reciprocated by a loved one. But the essence of love is not really in the reciprocity.
Can I keep on loving even if my love is unrequited? Can I keep on giving even when I receive nothing in return? If love were merely a question of quid-pro-quo, isn’t love then simply reduced into a mere commercial exchange or a business transaction? I think of a mother and her love. She never expects anything in return while nursing her baby. I think of true friends who unselfishly give without keeping a balance sheet. I think of generous dedicated teachers whose only reward is the opening of young minds to knowledge and learning. True love is not about expecting anything in return for the love I give.
What about, can I love those who do not love me? Or, can I love those who even outrightly hate me and wish me evil? Anger and hatred is so alive in the world today, there are those who would kill and destroy those they hate or harbor hatred for. I think of the Coptic martyrs in Libya who went to their death with the name of Jesus on their lips. I think of the peace-loving people in my home country who keep on working for peace and justice even in the midst of all the anger and hatred and confusion. I think of the many unsung care-givers, many of them Filipinos, who serve and care for the ill and the disabled even in the face of much abuse and challenges.
We know deep in our hearts that love is what makes us human; that love is all about the giving; that love endures even when it is unrequited or when it is paid back with hatred. I think of the sun that keeps on giving light, life and warmth without receiving anything in return. We feel all of these – light, life, warmth – when we experience love. It is almost like experiencing and encountering God Himself. No wonder, from the earliest times, people have worshipped the sun-god, from whom all light, love and warmth come. Like most things in His creation, God has made it so that the essence of existence is in the giving and in the loving.