In acting, we always experience ourselves as loving, i.e., we find that with every action, we will some good to someone, ourselves or others. In willing a good to someone, i.e., in choosing to act on his or her behalf, we testify to our love for him or her. Our actions are always symbolic. For good or ill, they are symbols of the love we bear. Through them, we either express or betray our love. Martyrs witness to this love to the end. They choose to die rather than to act in a way that would betray the one they love. Therefore, martyrdom is “the high point of the witness to moral truth” (Veritatis splendor n. 93) as here is also the fullness of love: “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (Jn 15:13).
That love is needed for moral discernment is a central thesis in Livio Melina’s paper. An old Latin proverb says, Ubi amor, ibi oculus – where love is, there is the eye. According to St. Thomas, the rightness of judgment can come to be in two ways: in one way, following the complete use of reason, in another way, because of a certain kinship (connaturalitas) with what one must judge at present. And this connaturality or kinship itself comes to be through love.
Exploring the experience of the dynamism of action from the perspective of the “first person,” we are able to discover the logic of love as the original source of our aspiration toward the good. In this way, we can see that the logic of love is at the same time the logic of the gift. The gift is given freely. It is at the root of our freedom. The gift stimulates our freedom, so as to bring it to its fulfillment by giving itself in turn. The truth about the good, expressed by the law and realized in the virtues, is therefore not a limitation, but rather the condition for an adequate response to the vocation of life itself, which is the vocation to love.