Another thing that makes us different and superior to the rest of creation (animals, birds, etc.) is our ability to love thanks to our freedom. In fact, a creature that is not free can neither love nor sin (sin is a lack of love).
The ability to love is the ability to –intelligently, voluntarily, and freely— give of oneself to another, of totally and unconditionally surrendering oneself to the other.
Animals cannot love. They only possess sexual attraction, but that is not love.
There are several different “classes” of human love: filial love (for one’s parents and God), fraternal love (for one’s friends or siblings), spousal love (for one’s husband or wife), and humanitarian love (for all mankind). Each of these different kinds of love is manifested in a different way; nonetheless, they are all characterized by the total and unconditional gift of oneself to the other.
Love is not a feeling; rather, it’s an act of the intelligence, will, and freedom. You do not love because you feel love towards a person; rather, you love because you want to love that person.
To love is to desire and work to achieve what is best for the one you love. You cannot love simply for your own personal satisfaction. Here, there is no room for self-centeredness – only generosity. To love, then, is to give yourself to the other without expecting anything in return.
Let us take God’s love for us as an example: He gives Himself to us in every moment. He gives us life, an awesome creation, His divine life through the Sacraments; He even gave us His only Son because He loves us. And it’s not like He has to or needs to do all that. He is perfect, infinite, omnipotent… What can He get out of loving you, or me, or anyone? Nevertheless, He loves each and every one of us. If a person feels loved very little by God, it’s not God’s problem, but his. The love of God is like the sunlight. The sun is always shining, but if I turn my back to it or close the shutters, the sunlight can’t enter. It would then be my own fault if I remain in the darkness, and not the sun’s, because the sun keeps on shining.