Have in you the same attitude that is also in Christ Jesus.
(Philippians 2: 5)
By Fr. Steve Dos Santos, C.PP.S.
“I’ll have the wings, they are my favorite piece,” my mother would say as we were cutting up the chicken for dinner. As a child I never thought much of whether or why my mom preferred the wings. It wasn’t until I was much older that I understood what was really going on, and the love that was the foundation of that pious little lie. And I know now that my mother was not the only one to do this. Others have told me similar stories of their own mothers who reserved to themselves the less favored pieces, so that their children could enjoy the good stuff.
I offer this simple, loving, maternal example because I think it provides a clear picture of the attitude that St. Paul is calling us to in the second reading. In encouraging and instructing the Philippians, he says that we should have the same attitude that was Christ’s. He goes on to quote a hymn that describes Jesus’ attitude of self-emptying love. A love that truly desired the good of the other, and was willing to do anything for our sake. The Incarnation, the suffering, the humiliation and the death all stand as powerful signs of Jesus’ self-emptying love for us and examples for us of the love we are called to have for others.
But powerful examples are sometimes easier to dismiss. When we think of Jesus, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by the immensity of how he gave completely of himself. But the chicken wing example is a simpler image of this same self-effacing, self-emptying love to which we are called. As Christians, we are called to set ourselves aside for the sake of the other, and while we may never have to actually die for the sake of another, we are called to die to self: to set our needs, wants, desires and even our preferences aside for the sake of the other. It is the humble self-emptying love of Jesus that we are called to emulate.
Humility and self-emptying are not high values in our culture today. In fact, they are quite countercultural. While everyone else is putting themselves first, we are called to put others first. Rather than seeking after what’s best for me, we are called to seek out the good of the other.
And it’s not just an occasional thing. Paul challenges us to make this self-emptying love a central part of our identity. To have this attitude in all of our relationships. To emulate the love of Jesus in all of our relationships.
Where do humility and self-emptying love need to grow in your life? Which of your relationships is calling you to die to self? This is where the rubber of our faith hits the road of our life when we are able to emulate this self-emptying love of Jesus. Not just with those we love or those who “deserve it,” but for everyone, even our enemies.
Originally from Alameda, Calif., Fr. Steve Dos Santos, C.PP.S., served for a number of years at St. Agnes Parish in Los Angeles. He currently serves as the vocation director of the Missionaries of the Precious Blood.