The question asked by Jesus Christ that resonates with this third step of love is found in John 13: 12 when Jesus washes the feet of the disciples urging them to do the same.
In this simple action and service, Jesus tells the disciples that he has shown his love for them and also, the only time it is said in the Gospels, given them an example of how they are to serve others and return the love.
The question is also an all-pervasive one, and beyond its immediate context the question is asked about the influence of Jesus in our lives. The phrase ‘done to you’ stands out – this is something that has begun to happen to our very being. The question asked includes our recognition of the unique way that God operates in each of our lives.
There are real shifts in St Bernard’s steps and also with each of the questions asked of us. There are real shifts between searching for what we want for ourselves, ‘What are you looking for?’; to the acknowledgement that we are in relationship with Jesus Christ, ‘Who do you say that I am’; and then that in the relationship with God something has happened to us – almost outside our conscious awareness – ‘Do you know what I have done to you?’
However, perhaps it will only be much later that we can see that we have been changed, and that what was dimly guessed at, and then glimpsed, has become increasingly important in our lives. So what happens when we put ourselves to one side and allow God to become increasingly central? Many have written about this as a process of stripping – a honing down of our self in the light of Christ. Raissa Maritain, the wife of Jacques Maritain, describes a separation within her: events and associated emotions and experiences in the foreground, with the background fixed in faith and love of God. But over time, one might say as she moves towards the third step of love Raissa Maritain sees ‘what has been done to her’ – that what was previously to the fore retreats to the background, whilst the background becomes the centre of her life. The sacrifice of self will and the stripping process involve what she describes as partial deaths. She feels her soul freer, like a ‘kernel which has been turned round and round inside the pulp of the fruit… so as to make it lose its adhesions’.