17 February 2008 2nd Sunday of Lent
Union and Love: UP Valentines Mass
Note: I prepared two homilies. The previous post was published in Sambuhay; this post was meant for the UP Valentines Mass. But I decided to combine the two articles during the 11AM mass.
There is one habit that we have as a family. Everytime we call each other on the phone, we say “I love you” as parting words, even after saying goodbye. Many would find these words mushy or corny, but they are the same words we heard from the victims of 9/11. Aristotle said that the unexpected reveals the true person. Without the opportunity to think ahead, or without the occasion for another time like experiences of death, the surprise catches us off guard and our true instincts emerge. In the stories of 9/11, there are no words of hate or even of the question, “Do you love me?” Our instincts tell us that deep within us is our desire to be in contact with another, another who is significant and important in our lives. These are the persons one instinctively thinks about before dying. Our spirit tells us that we are incomplete unless it moves towards union with others.
St. Thomas Aquinas talked about union when He talked about charity or love. When we are in love, we are in union with God, neighbor and self. Union is experienced when we love. It is what many married or lovers feel. It is what friends feel. It is what parents and family members feel towards each other. In the last minute of those in 9/11, in the final months of terminally-ill patients and the final hours of imminent death, what they wanted to feel in the end is union. When I blessed the body of an 18-year old boy, the brother of the keyboardist in Payatas, all of his families and friends were all around him. The call to be one with another is instinctive, basic and existential.
When God said to Peter, James and John in the Transfiguration that they should listen to His beloved Son, it was a call to union with Jesus in heart, mind and soul. As Jesus redirects his heart to Jerusalem, we are also called to journey with him to the very source of much pain. This is the movement of love that has depth: when we are able to accompany another in their own Jerusalem, and after the peak of their pain, emerge victorious, stronger and closer. “May pinagsamahan, sa hirap at ginhawa,” (Together in good times and in bad). When we share the pain of another, our hearts merges with them. In other words, we assume suffering in our responsible concern to overcome other’s greater suffering; it is love electing or choosing suffering. It is the willingness to enter in the chaos of another. Our experience tells us that listening is the best way to respond to the suffering of our loved one. It is no surprise that God exhorts us to listen to Jesus --- to be one in the suffering and redemption of humanity.
It is therefore providential that today we celebrate our Valentines mass in the Season of Lent. The season invites us to search our very depths to face the demons that keep us from total union: the lies that destroys trust, the hurting words that wounds, the selfishness that prevents us from listening to other people’s needs. The season invites us to fast from the things we use to cover our vulnerability; so that we get to see who and what we truly are.
But it is in vulnerability --- when there are no deceptions --- that makes union possible. William Placher says this about God’s suffering: “God suffers because God is vulnerable, and God is vulnerable because God loves --- and it is love, not suffering or vulnerability, that is finally the point.” It is no wonder that one crucial question that would finally make us evaluate the sincerity of someone who profess their love for us is, “Nandiyan ka ba nung kailangan kita?” (Where you there when I needed you the most?)