Sunday, April 09, 2006

To Love Like God is to be Vulnerable

I attended mass at 6:30 in the morning on Passion Sunday. Given my sleeping habits, one could easily tell that there must have been a special occasion for me to be all showered and made up to hear the chirping of the earliest birds.

I heard Mass with Lingkod QC at the Sacred Heart Novitiate, together with the Jesuit community and other retreatants/ participants who were at the venue for the weekend. The priest focused his homily on the love that God had for us, enough to suffer for us, because he chose to be vulnerable. He chose to love us even though we ignored, mocked and disobeyed him. He chose to save us from our sins so that we could live a fuller life. Love could be the only reason why He chose to be nailed on a cross, and so now we could say that He knows our pain and our misery, for He once walked among us.

That was also the essence of my individual consultation last night with Sr. Perry. I shared with her some difficulties I’ve had in loving when people didn’t love me back the way that I thought they would, which had caused me to hold back on my love for them, and she said that Someone knew exactly how I felt. In Isaiah 43:1-7, I would hear God telling me that He would walk with me. She said, “Sabihin mo sa Panginoon na nasaktan ka dahil sa sobrang pagmamahal. At pakinggan mo ang sagot niya: Ako rin.

Yet the Lord continued to love. So when we were asked at the conclusion of our retreat to come up with a symbol or a phrase to remind us of what we learned from this weekend, when we were Called to be Bearers of Love, I meditated on my favorite bench under my favorite tree, and realized that I would take this with me: “To love like God is to be vulnerable.

The psalm was sung by a Jesuit scholastic. It became my meditation prayer during my individual time of reflection this morning after the mass:

Psalm 116 (RSV)

1: I love the LORD, because he has heard my voice and my supplications. 2: Because he inclined his ear to me, therefore I will call on him as long as I live.

3: The snares of death encompassed me; the pangs of Sheol laid hold on me; I suffered distress and anguish. 4: Then I called on the name of the LORD: "O LORD, I beseech thee, save my life!" 5: Gracious is the LORD, and righteous; our God is merciful. 6: The LORD preserves the simple; when I was brought low, he saved me. 7: Return, O my soul, to your rest; for the LORD has dealt bountifully with you. 8: For thou hast delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling;

9: I walk before the LORD in the land of the living.

10: I kept my faith, even when I said, "I am greatly afflicted"; 11: I said in my consternation, "Men are all a vain hope." 12: What shall I render to the LORD for all his bounty to me?

13: I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD, 14: I will pay my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people.

15: Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints. 16: O LORD, I am thy servant; I am thy servant, the son of thy handmaid. Thou hast loosed my bonds. 17: I will offer to thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving and call on the name of the LORD. 18: I will pay my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people, 19: in the courts of the house of the LORD, in your midst, O Jerusalem. Praise the LORD!

Verses 10-12 became my call. So what if I had been hurt, it shouldn’t stop me from keeping my faith. I was still called, like Jesus, to pay my vows to the LORD for all his bounty to me, in the presence of all his people.

We were asked to bring coffee mugs to the retreat, and it was used as a symbol for our hearts. At the beginning of the retreat, we emptied it of everything that hindered us from loving God. Towards the end, we were asked to write short notes to our brothers and sisters, as many as we wanted, and to put them inside their mugs. Then, we were given 30 minutes just to drink in the little notes full of love.

Our cups overflowed. I thanked God for this community. Last night, we had Holy Hour before the Blessed Sacrament. During our prayer service, we sang praises to God and offered our prayers. I felt Jesus’ presence and did not want to be anywhere else in the world than to be there, with Him, and to be with people who loved Him in the same way that I did.

This morning we had a short time of worship again to offer our day to the Lord. I sang and danced to “Our Hearts Will Rise” and “Song of Patrick” and again had that joyful feeling of not wanting to be anywhere else than to be in that prayer room with those people I had been walking this journey of faith with for six years now.

After going over the notes inside my cup, I walked around in the sprawling gardens of the SHN and saw pictures of love among my brothers and sisters. I saw a sister pushing the swing for another sister. I saw a brother laughing with another brother over something I could not hear, but the image made me smile. I also saw a brother and a sister walking the tree-lined road, talking and smiling, back towards the dining area. I smiled. I had been hurt in this community, yet it taught me to love people who were difficult to love. I had also hurt a lot of them, and yet they continued to love me despite my weaknesses. There was tenderness in my heart, for there it was, a concrete manifestation of how being vulnerable in love bore lasting and genuine fruit.

Agape love, that is the goal, and so I prayed for the grace to be selfless in my loving. It was easy to do in the atmosphere of retreat. The real world was another question. Leah and I discussed the feeling that the apostles expressed during Jesus’ Transfiguration, for just like them, neither of us wanted to go down from that mountaintop experience where there was so much love, order, and peace.

We were on a silent retreat but something broke my silence. When I entered the chapel this morning, I saw TV cameras being manned by Caucasians. The camera in front of me was focused on a man, wearing glasses, who was probably the star of the show. Seated to his right was Mhel Reyes, then Jay, Marlon, and Luis. Yes, I witnessed the launching of the British career of some QT’s. The girl in front of me left a bunch of papers on her seat, and I happened to read what was written : Ginger Productions presents “Crucify Me”. I saw other QT’s behind the lady’s camera as well and wondered if we would ever get to see that show featuring QT’s in various pious positions.

After the mass, I approached the new stars and I told them what I witnessed. It turned out that they were aware of the camera focused on them, and Marlon did try to look his best while singing the “Ama Namin”. It was in Tagalog so the camerawoman shifted focus to Marlon, as the British man obviously could not sing along with the congregation. When we reached the dining hall, we were all laughing about the experience, and then we were reminded that we were still on retreat.

It was not as silent as the Lenten retreat we had last year, but it was as fruitful. It was just what we needed to hear as individuals and as a community.

This Holy Week, Fr. Mon, SJ said in his homily that we shouldn’t mourn, but we should be glad and thankful, for the Lord’s passion is all about His great love for us. It is the greatest love story ever told.

11 "I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete.
12 This is my commandment: love one another as I love you.
13 No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends.
14 You are my friends if you do what I command you.
15 I no longer call you slaves, because a slave does not know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father.
16 It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you.
17 This I command you: love one another.
-- John 15:11-17 NAB

Ok, Lord. I will try to lay down my life once more for those whom I love. I have never been good at this, so please help me. I desire to love like You do.

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