God's Greatest Gift is the Freedom of the Will ~ Dante Alighieri
The greatest gift of the bountiful grace of God;
Written into our creation and freely given,
Is a gift characteristic of His goodness,
A precious prize, the freedom of the will.[i]
God’s greatest gift is indeed the freedom of the will; that gift alone makes love possible, for there is no love without the freedom to choose love, or to deny it. That freedom and the possibility of love finds its essential meaning in His love for us and in our glad response to Him.
It is a wonderful gift to have the freedom to love and be loved. That freedom also implies that we are also able to say “No!” to love, and centre our love on ourselves alone, or even on the very act of loving instead of on the source of love who is God himself.
While some people do consciously say, “No!” to love, the majority of those who fail to connect with the God of Love do so for other, more subtle, reasons. People frequently feel that they are fundamentally unlovable, and in that fear assume that they will be rejected. Jesus speaks for the Father, as well as for Himself, when he says, “He who comes to me I will never cast out.”[ii]
Others, rightly assessing that Love has its costs, delay in making a decision. In our too affluent society that is the heart of the claim of so many who give voice to their sense of entitlement. That’s not a new theme, but a very old one featured in a Shirley Temple Song that Disney picked up in The Grasshopper and the Ant,
Oh the world owes me a living…
If I worked hard all day
I might sleep better when in bed at night,
I sleep all day so that's alright.[iii]
The world and God, it seems, owes them not only a living, but the slightest desires of their hearts. It doesn’t take much living to discover that while God provides for the needs of His children, he doesn’t always provide all their wants.
That freedom of the will also makes possible our free choice to love each other. Love is a decision and an action. That decision bears with it the risk of rejection, but love once discovered is worth the risks and losses that we experience as we venture ourselves in love. This is as true in the forming of healthy relationships in the Church as it is in romance. Love cannot be lazy.[iv] Love is an active verb rather than a passive emotion. Love by its very nature must actively reach out. Love is always worth the costs.