BRO. JONEL DALIMAG
1st Reading: Deuteronomy 6:2-6
Res. Psalm: Psalms 18: 2-3, 3-4, 47,51
2nd Reading: Heb. 7: 23-28
Gospel Reading: Mk. 12: 28b-34
The Greatest Gift of All
In the letter to the Corinthians, it is said that “And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love” (1 Cor. 13:13). Faith gives meaning to our struggles in life and connects us to our God, for the faith “is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen.” (Heb. 11:1). Hope is a disposition, a prayer, and a vision that strengthens and emboldens our will to live. It projects us to an unknown future. Love is an investment of faith and hope that gives meaning and purpose to our life and relationships. Love brought us all into this world. Love sustains us and connects us to our very roots, to our past, and it defines our present and future. Love shares our faith and hope. Love never runs o
ut. Faith and hope may fluctuate but love remains. Love never fails. This letter to the Corinthians’ declaration is an affirmation of Jesus’ proclamation in the Gospel that the greatest commandment of all is LOVE. Under normal situations, love should not be a command. It should naturally flow from our very being. However, situations in Jesus’ time, especially the socio-political and religious situations, under the rule of the Romans, impede the natural flow of love. People. Especially those in power like politicians and religious leaders were so timid in releasing that natural flow of love to God and to the people they are supposed to be serving. Jesus is a vigilant observer of the Jewish society, that is why when He was given the occasion and opportunity to correct this problem, He commanded love! Jesus was not a politician.
He was an ordinary son of a Jewish carpenter, but He knows and was sensitive to the needs of the people. Jesus knew what the people were looking for, especially from people who are supposed to love and serve them. Basic human services and respect for rights are expressions of love of God and love of neighbor, but it was terribly missing in Jewish society in Jesus’ time. Hence, the need for a strong command or order. Jesus’ power to command emanates from his permanent priesthood: “but because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood” (Heb. 7:24). To love is to serve God and neighbor. It is only when the love of God and love of neighbor set in us that true love of self becomes possible. The love of self-generated by power, prestige, position, and money -especially political power, is a misplaced love of self because it is not founded on the love of God first then on the love of neighbor. We are once again reminded that, first, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength.” This is the same reminder Moses gave to his people: “Fear the Lord, your God, and keep, through the days of your lives, all his statutes and commandments which I enjoin on you, and thus have a long life…Therefore, you shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength” (Deut. 6: 2, 5). Second, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Note that there is an order of things. There is first and second. It did not say that you shall love yourself first with all your power, wealth and prestige, before loving God and neighbor.
Election fever is heating and the onslaught of the pandemic is getting worst, and yet, misplaced self-loving candidates are coming out to promote their interests at the expense of the already suffering people. They present themselves as God’s loving and neighbor-loving people but their actions contradict their claim in the midst of self -glorification. Let us be critical, vigilant, and careful about these people. Let the commandment of Jesus be our guide and criterion in choosing wisely whom we will entrust our lives for the next few years. Otherwise, we will suffer again for the next six or more years.
Let Us Ask Intelligent Questions
It is election time again in the country. We are at it again. This means that the one we had a few years ago failed. What makes it worst is that the official campaign period did not yet commence, but character assassinations are heating up, not only between possible candidates but also their followers. This makes this process of ours a big failure. We have yet to hear wise arguments and strategic vision for our country and people. We still have to hear how the issues affecting our country, especially the poor who are most affected by the ongoing pandemic are addressed. We need to start asking substantial questions that would solicit a substantial programs of governance to face the enormous challenges that are drowning us.
In the gospel, Jesus was asked a very intelligent question: “Which is the first of all the commandments?” (Mk. 12:28) In other words, what is the greatest commandment of all? Jesus is not a politician and He was not in the middle of campaigning for a public office or position. He was just an ordinary Jew, who grew up with His friends in the streets of Jerusalem. The question was asked by a scribe, someone who was learned in the Law of Moses, and officer of the Sanhedrin. The question was thrown at Jesus, not to solicit ideas on how to address the recurring problems of the Jewish society, but to test Jesus’ beliefs. However, Jesus was able to intelligently answer the question with the best possible answer that strikes at the very heart of the Jewish society – LOVE. Love of God takes precedence over everything. Love of neighbor takes precedence over love of self. There is no other greater commandment than love.
LOVE as our Collective Political Capital
Put it in today’s Philippine context, perhaps we could ask all the possible candidates: for you, what is the greatest commandment of all. I am very sure that their answer to this question depends on their own interest that they want to protect. The interest of their own selves takes precedence over the interest of the people. And their love for political power is the only thing that matters to them. For them, political power is everything. It makes them feel like gods. Even in Jesus’ time, political power, particularly that of the Roman rulers, was abused and misused. And Jesus was very much aware of this. That is why He offered an antidote to it: LOVE of God and LOVE of neighbor.
It is only when one has love of God and love of neighbor that true love of self happens. By loving God and loving our neighbors through basic services and generosity, we begin to love ourselves. The love of self emanating from political power is a misplaced love of self. I would not call it love of self but self-glorification. Love of God and love of neighbor should become then the criteria for choosing our political leaders. Who among them love and respect God and who among prioritizes the welfare of the people? We have a president who has been lambasting even God and the Church and the result was a disaster. Many church people and advocates were completely silenced for speaking up for the love of God and for calling services to neighbors through basic services and respect for rights.
Many advocates from cause-oriented groups were put to prison for their guts and courage to speak up for love. We have to remember that even Jesus knew He would be arrested, prosecuted, punished, and executed because of speaking up for the love of God and neighbor, but He did keep silent. He was also a victim, but He used his voice to counter the status quo. Nothing has changed so far since the time of Jesus. Hence, His answer to the question what is the greatest commandment, meaning, what is the noblest thing to do as a believer, as a leader, as an advocate, as a politician, is still very relevant today, especially now that we are in the middle of election fever. normally, love should not be commanded. It should come naturally. However, with the way things are unfolding since the time of Jesus until now, love has to be commanded to penetrate the hearts and minds of all. And it is the only command that matters now. There is no other command than to love. Let us, therefore, command those aspiring to lead us and win our trust to love. Love becomes a command when we demand it together from aspiring leaders of this nation.
Let us command, not beg. Let us make love our collective political capital to stand up against the enormous political power that has been the cause of our struggles in life. Jesus’ command to love God and to love our neighbors is our primary source of strength and inspiration. W can always go back to our oath of allegiance to the Philippine flag which we pledge to be Maka-Diyos, Maka-Tao, Maka-Bayan and Maka-Kalikasan. Yes, Maka-Diyos at Maka-Tao kontra sa mga Maka-Sarili para sa isang Maka-Bayang Halalan! Yes, we have all the sources to command and demand love from our aspiring leaders. Let us remember that we are citizens of the Republic of the Philippines. We are not mere diehard supporters and fans of any candidate. As citizens we have all the right to demand from our leaders. Let us assert this right together. By the power of love, let us demand and command! May love, not money, power, and influence win this time. This way, we can say that we the people are the true winners.
Balik-Tanaw is a group blog of Promotion of Church People’s Response. The Lectionary Gospel reflection is an invitation for meditation, contemplation, and action. As we nurture our faith by committing ourselves to journey with the people, we also wish to nourish the perspective coming from the point of view of hope and struggle of the people. It is our constant longing that even as crisis intensifies, the faithful will continue to strengthen their commitment to love God and our neighbor by being one with the people in their dreams and aspirations. The Title of the Lectionary Reflection would be Balik –Tanaw , isang PAGNINILAY . It is about looking back (balik) or revisiting the narratives and stories from the Biblical text and seeing ,reading, and reflecting on these with the current context (tanaw).