Loving Someone is Simple and Cheap

5 November 2006: 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time
Deuteronomy 6, 2-6; Psalm 18; Heb 7, 23-28; Mark 12, 28-34

There are two things I want to say about love. These things are simple, almost stating the obvious. But when done, it requires some effort. First, you don’t have to say something to express love. A lot of love-expressions do not involve words. St. Ignatius of Loyola said that love ought to be expressed more in deeds than in words. It is easier to say or text ‘I love you’ but when you are in the middle of a busy week or you just had a fight with your wife, to say ‘I love you’ might come harder, much more so, to do things that express love. One of the commonly expressed difficulties is visiting the sick. I myself find it difficult to start a conversation to a sick person especially when I don’t know them. People come to request for hospital visits for anointing and many them I personally don’t know. Usually we open conversations with “How are you?” --- “Kamusta po kayo?” in Filipino. One time, the patient said, “Isn’t it obvious, Father?” I guess we think that we need to say something. There is a story told by Marcia Schwartz in Guideposts magazine. It’s about a visit to her grandmother in a nursing home:

“Nice you’ve come,” my grandmother whispered weakly from the bed. Just the night before, we had brought her to the nursing home because it not took several people to move her large-boned, crippled body. Her complexion looked pasty in the morning light and her colorless hair was wispy against her pillow. Grandma, always so active, always doing for others. Now her hands lay limp on the sheets --- hands that once served heaps of potatoes and fried chicken on blue willow plates, kneaded bread, patched overalls, gathered eggs, and churned butter.

I shoved my hands into the pockets of my coat. I felt helpless and awkward, not knowing what to say.

Several days later, I went to a doctor for a routine treatment. My three-year-old son stood wide-mouthed with fear and concern as we waited.

“Don’t worry,” I reassured him. “I’m all right."

Then he took my hand and held it quietly in his two small ones. My heart flooded with warmth and thankfulness. And suddenly with my little boy holding my hand, I knew what I would do the very next time I visited my grandmother.

Second, we need people, and thus, we need love. People need people. There is a story about a father who has a three-year-old daughter, who, one night, requested his aid to get her undressed. The father narrated, “I was downstairs and she was upstairs and, I said, ‘Well, I have taught you how to undress yourself’ I reminded her.”

“Yes,” she explained, “but sometimes people need people anyway, even if they do know how to do things by themselves.” As I slowly lowered the newspaper a strong feeling came over me, a mixture of delight, embarrassment, and pride. Delight, in the realization that what I just heard crystallized many stray thoughts on interpersonal behavior; anger, because she stated effortlessly and straightforwardly what I had been struggling with for months and years; and pride, because after all, she is my daughter.”

Many of us think that we have to talk all the time, think of the proper advice to give to our loved ones in moments of difficulty and grief. But a lot of times, they already know what to do and how to handle it. They know that what are lacking are two things that cannot be bought: first, deeds like being held on one’s hands, being embraced, being listened to; and second, being just there. A student of mine when asked, “Why don’t you have a girlfriend?” answered back, “Loving someone is expensive.” I disagreed. Loving some is actually simple and cheap --- just like faith: love God and love neighbor. Nothing else.

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