“It is not how much we do, but how much love we put in the doing. It is not how much we give, but how much love we put in the giving.” -Saint Mother Teresa
Each year at Royalmont for the past 15 years we have held a totally free carwash for the community. We do our very best to make the cars as shinny and clean as possible and we expect nothing in return. If patrons ask to make a donation we respectfully decline and thank them for permitting us to practice charity. At Royalmont we strive to help the children know, understand, and live the queen virtue of charity at all times. I define charity as unconditional, unending, unlimited self-sacrifice for the good of another. Charity is love’s foundation.
But for this year’s carwash I wanted to help the children come to an even deeper understanding of love. Is there more to love than charity? I asked the children of Royalmont to reflect on the question, “How do you wash a car with love?” I then shared with them Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, chapter 13, verse 13, where Paul writes, “And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.” From this verse we come to understand that it is possible to make significant sacrifice for someone, even giving up our life, while at the same time not participating in love. It is possible, but how is this possible? How can it be that I could wash someone’s car, not ask for anything in return, and yet my action would lack love? How can I make sure that when I wash the car I am doing it with love in the fullest sense of the word? Saint Paul is saying there is something beyond sacrifice that is necessary. What is that something… that something that will make what I am doing count… that will make my action an act of love?
Pope Benedict XVI wrote in his encyclical, God is Love, “I must give to others not only something that is my own, but my very self; I must be personally present in my gift.”
For love to be complete it must involve more than our actions, it must involve our hearts. What is going on in our hearts while we wash our neighbor’s car free of charge? Are we loving our neighbor from the depths of our heart. This is the call of the Saints of God--to love as God loves. Christ does not just give us his life, he gives us his heart too. As he looks down from the cross he sees us as beautiful, he desires forever unity with us, he morns our separation caused by our sin, and it is this great love God has for us which holds Jesus to the cross.
He sacrifices for us because he loves us. We are called to do the same for our neighbor. To do so, we must begin by having an encounter with God, who is love. Love changes and fills our hearts. This is how they will know we are Christians. This is how we can wash a car with love.