May 02, 2010
Marked With Love
A man died and faced Judgment. St. Peter met him at the Gates of Heaven and said, “Before you meet with God, I need to tell you that we’ve looked at your life, and you really didn’t do anything particularly good or bad. We’re not at all sure what to do with you. Can you tell us anything you did that can help us make a decision?” The newly arrived soul thought for a moment and replied, “Yeah, once I was driving along and came upon a woman who was being harassed by a group of bikers. So I pulled over, got out my tire iron, and went up to the leader of the bikers. He was a big, muscular, hairy guy with tattoos all over his body and a ring pierced through his nose. Well, I tore the nose ring out of his nose, and told him he and his gang had better stop bothering the woman or they would have to deal with me!” “I’m impressed,” St. Peter responded. “When did this happen?” The man replied, “About two minutes ago.”
Although in his lifetime the man did not do anything very remarkable, yet at that one moment he totally forgot about his own welfare and just rushed to come to the rescue of a woman in distress. That cost him his own life, but it was the key to his entrance into heaven. This story illustrates the Lord’s teaching in the Gospel this Sunday.
At the Last Supper, after Judas left the Upper Room to accomplish his act of betrayal, Jesus gave his most important teaching and commandment to his disciples: “I give you a new commandment: love one another.”
For many of us, love is just an ordinary word. We often use it so lightly in our conversations that it has lost its real meaning. So we casually say, “I love this car”; “I love my hair”; “I love my dog”; “I love to dance”. We are not even bothered when we use it in a contradictory sense: “I love money”; “I love my ambition”; “I love my mistress.”
I once had an elderly parishioner. He was a lector in the parish. His first wife died; he was living with his second wife. But he was attracted to another lady parishioner. Every time he is near her, he would sing a popular romantic song in Tagalog: “Sana, dalawa ang puso ko!” (“How I wish I had two hearts!) In effect he was saying, “Oh how I love to have two wives, the left and the right!”
This Sunday let me point out several important elements of love according to the mind of Christ. In the first place, love is not something trivial and superficial. Rather it is the essence of the Christian faith, for indeed, God is love. Hence, love has the qualities of the divine: eternal, universal and infinite. And if we truly love, we ourselves take on the qualities of God Who then dwells in us.
Second, to love is not easy because the essence of love is self-giving. God showed us this characteristic: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son.” Self-giving is never easy. On the contrary, it is always painful. Blessed Mother Teresa said: “True love causes pain. Jesus, in order to give us the proof of his love, died on the cross. A mother, in order to give birth to her baby, has to suffer. If you really love one another, you will not be able to avoid making sacrifices.”
Third, although love is a free and voluntary act, Jesus has commanded it: “A new commandment I give unto you, that you love one another.”This may sound highly unusual. If love is commanded, then there is no more voluntariness, and hence it cannot be love. But this is not true in the case of Christian love. Jesus is talking of love, not as eros or philia, but as agape – an act of the will whereby a person makes a decision to love those who are unlovable, and those who do not deserve to be loved. Jesus gives this command for he has done it himself and has set the example:“As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.”
Fourth, the only way whereby we can be known as Christ’s followers is by loving one another: “This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” Nowadays we are dismayed at how difficult it is to bring people to the true faith. Rather than blaming others, it would make better sense if we examine ourselves. On many occasions, it is our failure to love that makes us ineffective witnesses of our faith. Again, Mother Teresa said: “If faith is scarce, it is because there is too much selfishness in the world, too much egoism. Faith, in order to be authentic, has to be generous and giving. Love and faith go hand in hand.”
Finally, love is the most powerful force in the entire universe. The Son of God came into the world, wielding neither riches nor military might but only with the power of love – and he conquered the world. We too can change and conquer this world by that same power. Love is the only solution to the problem of peace and poverty. It is the only power that can change the hearts of people. It is only love that can open the gates of the Eternal Paradise.
Fr. Mike Lagrimas
Laoang, N. Samar