October 31, 2021 – 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time
Click here for the readings (https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/103121.cfm)
HOW DO I LOVE? WHY DO I LOVE?
Have you asked yourself this question? Or have you asked how is your way of loving?
Kyle (not his real name) seemed to be so kind and warmhearted around his friends. He would always be there when someone would be in need of help. He was always filled with smiles. He was generous of his resources and time. Yet, he also tended to just please everyone around and very afraid of any conflict and tension. As a result, his pleasing personality would turn to become submissive to his friends and family members.
Deep within, Kyle was filled with insecurities and fear of being left alone and abandoned by people whom he valued. Kyle, at a very young age was abandoned by his mother and left by his father at the care of their relatives. Kyle grew up believing that he has to earn the love of people around him so that he would never be lonely and alone again. This was the reason why Kyle would do anything, please his friends and as much as possible cling on them. However, his goodness and kindness was easily abused by opportunists.
Like Kyle’s pleaser-submissive way of loving, we may also have our own ways of loving and reasons of loving. Thus, we may find ourselves loving others because we seek a similar response from them. This happens when we think that loving is like making investment and expecting many returns of investment. This is Love-Investment form of loving.
Others may find themselves loving for the sake of self-satisfaction and self-gratification that a person receives from being kind and generous. Yes, it is possible that we can be loving to people around us to boast our ego. Yet, this is a ego-centered form of loving and an attention-seeker form of loving.
There is also another way of loving that seeks control towards others. This way of loving believes that our ways, our values and our perspective are always better and superior than the one we love. For this reason, our way of loving does not give space for dialogue, does not welcome suggestion and uncompromising because we tend to control people and submit our loved ones according to our own ways. However, such kind of loving is controlling and suffocating.
Another way of loving also can be in a form of a guilt-driven love. This means that our way of loving induces guilt or makes people around us to feel guilty if we are not loved. Such way of loving can make threats to people just like saying, “if you won’t love me or if you will leave me, I will kill myself.” Yet, this way of loving is manipulative and destructive.
There might be more other reasons of loving but these forms of loving are called, “REFINED SELF-LOVE.” Yes, merely for self-love and has nothing to do with others or with God.
Indeed, when our way of loving is one of those refined self-love, our way of loving others, is devoid of love of God. In fact, God has no space in there because what we are after is just ourselves – “me, myself and I.”
What God wants us is that our way of loving will become free which requires loving beyond our comforts even beyond our fears and insecurities. This is what we have heard in our readings this Sunday.
Moses reminded the Hebrews how God saved them from their oppressors, defended them from their enemies and favored them as God’s chosen people. What Moses wanted was to allow the hearts of the people to grow in gratitude to the Lord God because God is faithful. It is in growing in gratitude that the people also shall find themselves to be transformed in love. Loving the Lord God, then, with all our heart, soul and strength is the expression of our gratitude to God.
Gratitude to God in our heart heals our fears and insecurities because we become convinced and confident just as the author of the Psalm proclaimed to us today, “I love you, Lord, my strength.” Yes, it is when we find our true assurance of support and comfort in God that we are also able to build a healthy self-image who is being cherished and loved first by the Lord.
This brings us concretely to love the Lord in return not because out of fear or out of obligation, but out of gratitude which is a free response of loving. Such response of loving has been deepened by Jesus in today’s Gospel of Mark.
Thus, Jesus reminded us of the immediate result of loving the Lord. The love of neighbor is the concrete manifestation of loving the Lord. Remember, God’s image is in each of us. Therefore, if we love God, then, it also means that that love is being expressed towards ourselves and towards our brothers and sisters who are created in God’s image and likeness. The two commandments of love cannot be separated from one another. They co-exist with one another.
Loving God calls us then, to love one another with all our heart, our soul, mind and strength. And we can begin today by being, first, grateful to God which would hopefully make us joyful persons. When we are joyful, then, God transforms us to be generous to others, both in our words and deeds. Remember this, joyful and grateful persons are truly generous because true generosity springs forth from those attitudes of gratitude and joy.
However, like the pretentious scholars of the law and some Pharisees who wanted to trapped Jesus, we could also pretend to be generous but then having an impure motive, and that is to advance our personal interests. This is then, not a true expression of love towards others, but selfishness.
We should also be very careful when we tend to become so stiff with our religious practices but having a growing indifference and malice towards people around us, then, our devotion to God is empty and merely motivated by fear. Going to mass and going to confession regularly may become a mere appearance of our ego-centered devotion when we deny what is truth and factual, and when we tolerate dishonesty and corruption.
Our revered sacred images at home and daily rosary shall only become merely devotional show when we also refuse to recognize abuses in our community and choose to be silent and neutral amidst oppression and injustice committed against the powerless and the weak.
We ask for the grace today, that our way of loving will be transformed into Jesus’ way of loving, that is free, grateful and self-giving. Hinaut pa.