Totus Tuus: a brief, yet brilliant play
(Christmas morning, eager child poised in front of tree with one large present, puffy-eyed parents on couch clinging to coffee mugs, How Deep Is Your Love plays softly in the background)
Child: Can I open it?
Mum: Certainly, dear, it’s yours!
(child rapidly tears through wrapping paper, exposing THE toy he’s always wanted)
Child: OMGoodness, Mum, it’s THE toy I’ve always wanted!!!!!!!!
Mum: We’re glad you like it, dear. (awkwardly glances at father, nudging him)
Dad: Um…..well…….son…..(coughs)…..we’re glad you like it, and it’s yours, we really, truly mean it. We’re glad to be able to give it to you. Er……there’s, ah, there’s just one thing.
(Child’s eager smile freezes with concern as his fingers dig into the box)
Dad: It’s just that, we’re going to need it back at some point. Oh, not….not TODAY or anything silly like that. Just….at some point in the future, we’ll need it back.
Child: But…but, I thought you GAVE it to me…
Dad: Of course we did, son, it’s all yours. Freely. Totally. For now, anyway.
(lights go down until
Nic the boy stands alone in a spotlight, head down, gripping THE toy, quietly humming his best Barry Gibb impression. Just then, the postman rings the doorbell, probably wanting cookies again…)
I can’t tell you how excited I was to stumble upon this piece of brilliant work by…um….Neil Simon! I was amazed at how perfectly it fit into this article, so I just had to use it. “Totus tuus”, John Paul II’s papal motto, is Latin for “totally yours”, and is the second mark of God’s love laid out for us in Humanae Vitae. (That’s it for Latin today, because, if you’re at all like me, your grasp on Latin is basically reading coins in line at Savers and screaming “Carpe Diem” whenever I felt cooped up and too quiet at the coffee shop.)
The concept is quite simple: God’s love–true love– always gives to the fullest degree, completely, totally. Real love never holds anything in reserve, but instead makes itself a free, total gift. In contrast to Humanae Vitae‘s love, which enters into relationship “without undue reservations or selfish calculations”[rhyme!], so often, we approach relationships with the complete opposite mindset. We either launch ourselves headlong into a nebulous, un-defined, merely instinctive relationship (think “idiotic Meg Ryan bicycle scene” in City of Angels), or we baby step our way, one toe at a time, into a self-preservational arrangement, where every effort is made to protect the self. What the Church is urging us towards is a gift of self that has calculated the outcome, but with the ultimate good and well-being of the recipient in mind.
Not that this is easy, enjoyable, or comfortable. Something can be quite simple, but not easy (for me, it’s cooking eggs…or even just browning meat…I can’t cook). Something can be fully good and holy, yet not be “enjoyable” by most earthly standards. And as for comfort, well, B16 put it best when he said, “The world promises you comfort, but you were not made for comfort. You were made for greatness.” As always, the prime example of this is Jesus’ actions toward us. He not only TOLD us that there was no greater love than to lay down your life, He then showed us what total love looked like by doing just that. Philippians 2:7 tells us that, instead of giving in to the allure of sitting at the right hand of the Father at the throne, “rather, he emptied himself”.
So, what does this mean in your daily life? How do you live as a total gift?
It starts in the little things, like taking Neil Simon’s playwriting pinnacle to heart. If you’re going to tell someone you love them, and therefore be a gift to them, then be prepared to give everything to them. Let me say it again: be prepared to give…..everything…..to…them. Don’t insist on “me time” or “I just gotta be me”. Don’t compartmentalize your person, giving only parts away. If you’ve ever thought, “She can for sure have my body, and maybe even some of my time, but she’d better not start wanting to spend every waking minute together or asking me for my money”, then your “gift” isn’t complete, and neither is your love. If you’ve ever thought, “He can have my body, but he doesn’t get my heart”, then your “gift” isn’t complete, and neither is your love. Basically, if you aren’t ready or safe to give 100% of yourself to the other person, then you should pump your brakes and ask God to show you why.
Lest you think that this love is a sour-faced collage of misery, Humanae Vitae teaches us that someone wishing to love totally “loves not only for what he receives [that’s the free love from last time], but for the partner’s self, rejoicing that he can enrich his partner with the gift of himself” (emphasis mine). That word–rejoicing–is a helpful key to understanding total love. Instead of besieging our significant other with lists of our “needs”, if we ask God to show us the true goodness of others, we will find ourselves more than eager to make a gift of ourselves to them. Even the smallest glimpse of someone’s deep worth is enough to convince you that the only real and honest response is to give to them (think Mother Teresa and basically anyone she came in contact with).
Love that is total, is ready to entrust the other person with its hopes, dreams, career, paycheck, time, emotions, and body. Love that is a complete gift has reckoned the other to be worthy of itself and acts accordingly. Can you see how amazing, powerful, and creative a relationship could be if BOTH parties involved embraced this love? (Think Mary and Joseph)
Brothers and sisters, let us strive to love freely and totally. Let us set out to make our lives a total gift, holding nothing back. But, before we do, let us open our hearts completely to the total love of our Savior, receiving HIS gift, that we, “rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the holy ones what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that [we]may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Eph 3:17-19). (Yes, that verse basically says, “how deep is your love”.)