The Problem – And Joy – with Love

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe, Week XXII-A, 03 September 2017
Jeremiah 20:7-9//Romans 12:1-2//Matthew 16:21-27

You read it right: this reflection is about the problem with love. To experience the joys of love, we must first go through the problems with love. And the problem with love is that it is not a bed of roses at all but often more of thorns. Why do we keep on loving despite all the sufferings and pain? There is always that “invincible” attraction exerted by a beloved that we can’t resist, especially if that beloved is God like in the experience of the Prophet Jeremiah.

You duped me, O Lord, and I let myself to be duped; you were too strong for me, and you triumphed. All the day I am an object of laughter; everyone mocks me. Whenever I speak, I must cry out, violence and outrage is my message; the word of the Lord has brought me derision and reproach all the day. I say to myself, I will not mention him, I will speak in his name no more. But then it comes like fire burning in my heart, imprisoned in my bones; I grow weary holding it in, I cannot endure it.”(Jer.20:7-9)

Every time I read this passage, I remember the movie “Maging Sino Ka Man” when Robin Padilla confronted Sharon Cuneta with matching “astig” form and voice, “Suko na ako sa iyo; taas na kamay ko! Nagkakagusto na nga ako sa iyo. Mahal na nga yata kita… maging sino ka man.” So cheesy but so true! In the midst of a torment of doing what is right, what is good, there is always pain and suffering but we cannot abandon people or causes and vows because we love. Jeremiah felt the same thing: at first he refused to become a prophet because he felt so unworthy. But God “seduced” him to becoming a prophet that he agreed to speak for Him. As he delivered the messages of God, people got mad and tried killing Jeremiah who felt duped by God into becoming His prophet. And there lies the problem with love: he could not desert God anymore as much as he wanted to because he had loved Him so much. Jeremiah had gone into that intimacy with God we reflected last Sunday that there was already a fusion of his will with the Divine will. To lose one’s self in God is the discovery of one’s true self. This is why last Sunday Jesus asked us “who do you say I am?” because our answer to that depends largely to our level of intimacy, of union in Him which is the clearest sign of our love for Him.

When our love enters into that stage of communion, of oneness with the Lord, there is always the call to share in His passion, death and resurrection. Thus comes the other problem – and joy – with love: it is in losing everything to a beloved, especially Jesus Christ that we truly gain Him and our beloved. Here we find the veracity of Pascal’s claim that “the heart has its own reasons that the mind could not understand.” Love is something beyond reasons or non-logical wherein there are not enough reasons to sufficiently explain it. It is different from being illogical which is being unreasonable. Love is something we have to experience like food: if it looks good, eat it and savor its taste.
Let the taste take you wherever it leads you. Explanations come later because when we rationalize food, like love, we spoil it. We have to go through the experience, the twists and turns to allow ourselves to be surprised with something new and different, even something bigger and greater.

Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer greatly from the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised. Then Peter took Jesus aside and began to rebuke him, “God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you.” He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.”(Mt.16:21-23)
Jesus and the 12 were still in Caesarea Philippi where last Sunday Peter rightly identified Him as the Christ and the Son of the living God. This is the first prediction by Jesus of His passion, death and resurrection as He made a U-turn from His journey to head down south to Jerusalem to fulfill His mission. Peter tried to reason out with Jesus out of love for Him, like what we do with our loved ones especially if they are in the face of serious danger. We are all guilty like Peter of trying to be “reasonable” that we tend to be overprotective of our loved ones, preventing their growth and maturity. Worst of all, in our great love for others especially those dearest to us, we become manipulative, controlling everything to achieve our desired results.

Today Jesus is telling us an important aspect of true love: it is not in avoiding or skipping pains and sufferings that we grow deeper in love. To think as God does, to love like Him is to let go – to be powerless, to lose everything in love. It is the path of going down, exactly opposite the way of the world of going up (upward mobility). It is in losing when we gain. And in dying when we live. A lot often like Peter, we take talks about death as morbid when in fact, not all dying is suicidal. On the other hand, we are not romanticizing death. What Jesus is teaching us is to be realistic: when we allow life to follow its natural course of birth and death, sunrise and sunset, then, we find its full meaning in Him along the way until the end.

The National Pilgrim Image of Our Lady of Fatima visited our Parish last Friday. At the Salve Regina, I noticed the Lady tenderly looking at me. Her face was so lovely, radiantly gentle. It was so brief but I felt deep in my heart Our Lady of Fatima telling me “awang awang na ako sa iyo, Nick.” It was not the look of pittance but of motherly love and tenderness that I tried to hold my tears as I felt a gush of giant waves racing inside my body from my stomach up to my chest and throat. All these days I have been praying and complaining to God about my gout as I have done everything except cut off my feet or go on a hunger strike to rid its pains. Adding up to the pain are the endless questions and suggestions of people who know nothing at all about having gout. In that instance, I felt a tender moment with God through our Lady of Fatima who has always been concerned with all our sufferings and pains that she appeared 100 years ago in Portugal to bring us back to her Son Jesus Christ, reminding us of the ways of God, of feeling more than thinking more. The most essential thing in love is how much we are willing to lose to truly express and experience love. When we can lose our very selves for God in loving others, that is so because we have been so loved by God in the first place Who had lost His Son Jesus on the Cross for us. And with Him at the foot of the Cross was His mother, Mary with our St. John, the Beloved Apostle and our Parish Patron. You are loved!

Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II,
Parokya ni San Juan Apostol at Ebanghelista,
Gov. F. Halili Ave.,
Bagbaguin, Sta. Maria, Bulacan