“Where is love?” This was the question asked by the orphan boy Oliver Twist in the 1960s musical Oliver when he felt alone and abandoned. This song touched me deeply when I was a boy. It is a question many of us ask ourselves when life is hard or when we see injustices destroying lives.
Christ must have asked the same question on the cross when he cried out, “My God, my God why have you forsaken me?” Where was love when Jesus was betrayed, abandoned by his friends and crucified like a criminal? Sometimes we find ourselves in a dark place, like Jesus on the cross, and our lives can seem loveless. When hunger, unemployment, addictions, indignities, abuse, hate speech, false accusations, killing, corruption, human trafficking run wild and seem to reign, our world appears dark. But if we look more carefully, more intently at people and situations, it is then that we see love revealing itself.
On Jesus’ journey to the cross and beyond, in the sea of hate surrounding him, there were also intense moments of love: the women, the Blessed Virgin Mary and John, who braved the sorrow of standing at the foot of the cross when everyone else had abandoned him; the good thief, who broke the stereotype of the delinquent and asked to be remembered when Jesus came into his Kingdom; Joseph of Arimathea, who overcame his fear of being an open follower of Christ to ask Pilate for his body; Nicodemus who generously gave vast quantities of myrrh and aloes to anoint Christ’s body; the women who went to the tomb on the third day to tend to the body, even though they had no idea how to move the boulder blocking its entrance; and even Pilate, who saw the injustice of the situation and wanted to release Jesus.
What these actions have in common is that they seem insignificant, especially if you compare them to the violence of the crucifixion and all that had gone before it. What difference can one act of kindness make in the face of unrelenting evil? It can make all the difference in ways we can’t even imagine how because these small acts of care and love are crowned by the total self-giving of Christ crucified on the cross. Since the time of Christ, who tended to the poor and healed the sick and welcomed outcasts, our faith has been built on personal encounters and on people who empty themselves, enabling them to see people and their situations with deep understanding, compassion and solidarity. We are called as Christians to encounter others and walk with them humbly, without judgement or pretensions of having the answer to all their problems. It is through these encounters that our hearts are opened and presented with a new horizon and a renewed energy to move forward. It is through these encounters of love and caring that persons, families and communities are transformed from prisoners of despair into bearers of hope.
We invite you to seize the power of love unleashed by the risen Christ this Easter, and with the love you have received, spread seeds of hope across our country. Love is not just a word, it’s a lifestyle of seeing, encountering and understanding other people. It is the lifestyle of Jesus, crucified and risen. It is the lifestyle of being with and living for others in the belief that light will always overcome darkness. In the name of the Archdiocese of Manila, I wish you a blessed and safe Easter!
+ Luis Antonio G. Cardinal Tagle
Archbishop of Manila
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