Following William Newton's article, in the last issue of The Sower, explaining Blessed John Paul II's encyclical, Familiaris Consortio, he now discusses the pope's understanding of the value of the person, presenting the central ideas in his theology of the body.
We begin with a simple and profound question: what is the purpose and meaning of human life? The answer that John Paul II gives to this question is remarkably simple. The goal of human life is to make a gift of oneself for the sake of communion. Gift and communion: these are the hermeneutical keys through which Blessed John Paul II viewed the world. In effect, he says, that at the end of your life, it will be judged to have been a success or a failure not on the basis of fame, wealth, or pleasure; but on the basis of whether you took the opportunity to make a gift of yourself to others and whether or not you achieved profound communion with others and with God.
If you are not acquainted with the thought of John Paul II, the phrase ‘gift of self’ might strike you as unusual; and even if you are, it can remain a bit nebulous. So let us look at this this.
In many ways, ‘gift of self’ is synonymous with ‘love’. Of course, the word ‘love’ is used analogously for a whole range of realities that come under the umbrella of ‘desiring the good for someone’. Here is not the place to draw all the distinctions, but in Love and Responsibility, Karol Wojtyla does just that and concludes that ‘a total gift of self’ or ‘betrothed love’ is the highest possible form of love.