Jesus in today’s Gospel teaches us about “Love.” When we hear the word “love” it evokes different thoughts and different emotions in each of us. This is because each of us have experienced love differently and probably would also describe the meaning of “love” differently too.
For some of us “love” is less complex and is a reality that we cherish, in spite of the ups and downs and challenges of love; we build our lives and hopes on people we love, and we pray that the people we love will continue to give us the strength, joy and happiness for the rest of our lives. However, for others, “love” is a complex human experience that we all long to have, but sadly have experienced very little of it because life seems to be an unending chain of disappointments, hurts and suffering, especially from the people who are supposed to love us most – our spouse, our children, our family, our relatives, our best friend, our trusted colleague, our long-time neighbour and even our priests and like.
There is a story, which is probably true of a child and his mother. Let us call the child Jack. And this is what Jack has to share:
My mom only had one eye. I hated her… She was such an embarrassment. She cooked for students and teachers to support the family.
There was this one day during elementary school where my mom came to say hello to me. I was so embarrassed. How could she do this to me? I ignored her, threw her a hateful look and ran out. The next day at school one of my classmates said, “eee . . ., your mom only has one eye!”
I wanted to bury myself. I also wanted my mom to just disappear. I confronted her that day and said, “If you are only going make me a laughing-stock, why don’t you just die?!”
My mom did not respond … I didn’t even stop to think for a second about what I had said, because I was full of anger. I was oblivious to her feelings.
I just wanted to get out of that house, and have nothing to do with her. So I studied real hard, and eventually managed to get some scholarship and go abroad to study. After I graduated, got a job and I got married. I bought a house of my own. I had kids of my own. I was happy with my life, my kids and the comforts.
Before I continue with the story, I would first point out that even as Jack claims that he is “happy” with his life, wife and kids, we can be sure that he is not truly happy in life. There cannot be true and deep happiness in a cold emotionally confused, insecure and self-centred person like Jack. The essence of the Commandments of Jesus is to love God with our whole heart, soul, mind and strength and to love our neighbour as Jesus has shown us.
So, unless Jack repents for the deep hurts he has caused his mother, and unless he reconciles with her, he will never experience the deep love that Jesus is proclaiming in today’s Gospel. The Truth of the Gospel, is also the Good News of God’s Commandments that need repentance and reconciliation in relationships and of our daily living; we cannot be “oblivious” to such reality as Jack was.
As I continue Jack’s story, the reality is this: If Jack repents and reconciles with God and his mother, he will find a renewal, and the true peace and the deep love of God in his life. But, if he does not, then he will continue to live a lie regardless of his claims that he is happy with his life, wife, kids and comfort.
Jack continues his story. He says, one day, to my great surprise, my mother came to visit me. She hadn’t seen me in years and she didn’t even meet her grandchildren. When she stood by the door, my children laughed at her, and I yelled at her for coming over uninvited. I screamed at her, “How dare you come to my house and scare my children! Get out of my house! Now!”
And to this, my mother quietly answered, “Oh, I’m so sorry. I may have gotten the wrong address.” – and she disappeared out of sight.
One day, a letter regarding a school reunion came to my house. So I lied to my wife that I was going on a business trip. After the reunion, I went to the old shack, where my mom lived, just out of curiosity; never intending to meet her.
My neighbours said that she had died. I did not shed a single tear. They handed me a letter that she had wanted me to have. It says,
“My dearest son,
I think of you all the time. I’m sorry that I came to your house and scared your children. I was so glad when I heard you were coming for the reunion. But I may not be able to even get out of bed to see you. I’m sorry that I was a constant embarrassment to you when you were growing up.
You see . . . when you were very little, you got into an accident, and lost your eye. As a mother, I couldn’t stand watching you having to grow up with one eye. So I gave you mine.
I was so proud of you my son, who was seeing a whole new world for me, /in my place,/ with that eye.
With all my love to you,
(Adapted from, Inspirational Tabloid, by Cornel Osigwe Jnr. on February 18, 2013)
My brothers and sisters in Christ, I am sure Jack’s disgusting and repulsive behaviour towards his mother had evoked questions like, “How could a person be so self-conscious and self-centred that he was not only too embarrassed and ashamed of his mother, but would even behave in such beastly manner of disowning her?! In contrast, we also see how human love as in Jack’s mother can be so unconditional, self-sacrificing and forgiving.
Regardless of how we have experienced “love” to be, we can only make sense of the meaning of what love is all about, in the light of God’s Love for us. This is because human love in itself is not the deepest form of love and longings of our hearts.
The greatest form of human love, even a love like that of Jack’s mother, is only a tiny glimpse of the infinite Love of God that has Willed us into existence. Thus, only God’s Love can truly fill our hearts and our homes; only God’s love can truly sustain us with true hope in our lives because while human love brings us joy and happiness in this passing world, God’s Love brings us joy and happiness not only in this world, but in the next and for all eternity.
This is why Jesus in today’s Gospel tells us, that if you love Me, then obey My Commandments . . . and in obeying My Commandments, you will remain in My Love, and in My Father’s Love for all eternity.
And so, let us remind ourselves that when we live by God’s Commandments, we not only bring joy and happiness to people’s lives, we also deepen our relationship with the Lord, and this relationship will last for all eternity. It is being united and living in this divine love of Christ that we gain the wisdom of the right perspective and understanding to what human love is about.
In short and to conclude, in all of these, St Ignatius of Loyola would urge us to live constantly a discerning life; a life that is lived with the conscious desire to praise God, reverence God and serve God in all that we do in life. The desire to live in this manner is a gift that is already given to each of us when God created us in our mother’s womb. We all need to reawaken this divine Love that is within our hearts and Jesus in today’s Gospel tells us that the Advocate; the Spirit of Truth will show us how to live and love others, and most importantly, to inspire and empower us to love in the ways of Christ.
What type of love do we want to choose? How do we want to show and live this love in our daily living? Jesus is wants to hear our choice.
Msgr Philip Heng,S.J.
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