Years ago I was reading a book on the train. In many aspects it undermined my well-established opinions on many matters. At one point the book was so controversial that I wanted to chuck it out through the window of the train. Fortunately my respect for social rules prevailed and the book left the train in my bag. Later on, with calmed emotions, I started to analyse the writer’s insights, and years that followed proved he was right. And my acceptance of his opinions has spared me many disappointments. The main message of that book was that we should not define ourselves in reference to others, but on our very own.

In today’s first reading we hear God speaking to the prophet Jeremiah: ‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; before you came to birth I consecrated you.’ These words are true about each one of us, and in fact about everyone. God knows you and created you from before your very beginning. In his eyes you are the most precious being ever. Because God isn’t limited by time and space, he doesn’t have to divide his attention between seven billion human beings – he can give you and everyone else all his attention. The only reason God created you is you yourself only. You have come into this world as needed, expected and loved – even if this doesn’t apply to your biological parents.

You came to this world equipped with skills and talents required to fulfil your life. Of course they have to be discovered and developed to be useful and helpful. This process is time consuming, and demands your substantial effort. The main danger however lies in comparing your life and achievements with others. Many people don’t develop themselves just because they try to imitate their idols, but it’s a futile attempt: they can’t become someone else, and they don’t develop their own potential. We can and we should learn from people we meet in our life, adopting good things from them, but only in order to develop our own personality to the full and to enrich it. Otherwise we might spend all our time living a miserable, envious and uninspiring life. Or, on other end of the scale we have people chasing elusive ideas that possessions – material or mental – can make them into more valuable persons.

Saint Paul in today’s second reading presents the driving force and the only genuine reason for any development of a person: love. Skills, talents, wealth, even charity works are worthless if driven by anything other than love. His definition, or rather description of love, is a permanent goal for everyone interested. Love isn’t a nice feeling; love is a decision made by a person. This decision must be taken and renewed each time when we face a choice. Love is a decision against our own selfishness and narrow-minded self-interest. And this is why love is so demanding: because your own egotism will die three hours after your death.

Love is the greatest skill and talent we’ve got from God. Developing it is the greatest challenge of a lifetime. For those who managed to achieve that, personal poverty or wealth is only a nuisance; fame and honours are only by-products. Because at the end of the day all these things don’t matter, as they cease to exist. The only thing that will last is genuine and selfless love.