July 27, 2007

Faith and Family / Sean Gallagher

True love is found in caring for babies

Little Victor Gallagher, my family’s third child, is about 3 months old.

For a few weeks now, he has started to make eye contact with people. He’ll smile when we smile at him. And he’s making those oh-so-cute cooing sounds that make babies so adorable.

This is the time when it’s really easy to love a baby. Now, of course, this doesn’t mean that I didn’t love him before. The simple wonder of a baby coming forth from his or her mother’s womb can inspire love beyond question.

But in those first couple of months after birth, there’s no give-and-take between baby and parent like Cindy and I have been experiencing lately.

A newborn baby doesn’t smile, laugh or coo to show you that he appreciates who you are or what you’re doing for him.

But no matter what, you’re still a parent. And you still do all those things to care for your baby.

That’s what true love is. That’s what the writers of the New Testament called “agape.”

It’s a self-sacrificing love that wills the good of another for no other reason than that “other” exists and has been placed in your life by God.

True love isn’t contingent. It doesn’t depend on the payback that my wife, Cindy, and I are starting to experience in the darling smile of our young son.

In the midst of the endless cycle of demands that babies place upon their parents, it is important for parents to find time to reflect upon the powerful meaning of this love.

When parents shower this true love upon their baby, they become an icon of our heavenly Father.

His love for us is infinite, and he is constantly providing for our every need.

God does this even when, like a newborn baby, we don’t make eye contact with him or don’t smile at him, or don’t make the cooing sounds that are our prayers of thanks and praise.

Perhaps the more that we reflect upon the power of the love we show our babies, the more pure that love will become.

But the ongoing sad effects of original sin in our own lives and in the world at large can sometimes hide this urge to care for our babies.

I certainly am not perfect in the care that I give to Victor.

But I’m cognizant enough of the true love that he needs from me to feel heartbroken when I think about the millions of babies killed in the womb each year through abortion, and hear reports about little babies who are injured or die at the hands of parents who have shaken them too hard or hit them when they just wouldn’t stop crying.

No matter how caring we are, parents will always be imperfect images of our heavenly Father and his infinite love.

That is why it is so important for parents to help each other.

Cindy and I are very grateful for the meals that our friends and loved ones made for us soon after Victor was born.

We try hard to give a helping hand when they have babies of their own.

True love is the greatest gift that God can give us. In truth, it is grace. It is the gift of his very life poured into our souls, that life that then flows out of us in the loving care that we show each other, especially those little ones who can’t pay us back. †

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