“It is a paradox of our modern age that, although we have more knowledge and material possessions than at any other time in history, a growing hunger for the meaning of life pervades our world. (“Does Life Have Greater Meaning and Purpose?”, Making Life Work, magazine, 2001).
The main reason for this dilemma is that we “lack a sense of transcendent purpose” or “surpassing, excelling, highest purpose” in life. Hence, to address our current predicament, we must have a very clear understanding of why God created us in the first place and pursue a “purpose-driven” life.
God created mankind to love and adore Him, to be His instrument to make this world a better place to live in, and to join Him later in heaven. Thus, “seek first the Kingdom of God and all these things shall be added unto you.” God’s two supreme Commandments to us are: 1) “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind,” and 2) “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Obviously, He “defined our reason for being in one word LOVE!
No wonder, therefore, that we are in a deep trouble simply because in our journey to modernization and globalization, we, most especially our leaders, have forgotten to seek God first and love Him with all our being together with loving our neighbor or “bigger family”. To borrow the words of teenager climate change activist. Greta Thunberg, “How Dare You! We are in the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth.” Most of our leaders must be responsible stewards by loving and protecting God’s creations to the point of sacrificing our succeeding generations for their greed.
What exactly is love? Webster defines love as “strong affection for or attachment to someone.” The Catholic Dictionary of John A. Hardon, S.J., defines love as “to will good to someone. Also to please someone, either by sharing with that person what one possesses or by doing what someone wants. Basically there are two kinds of love. The love of concupiscence, or self-interested love, means that another is loved for one’s own sake or something useful or pleasant to the one who loves. The love of friendship means selfless love of another for that person’s own sake, for his or her good, to please him or her; it is a love of benevolence. Agape is the most distinctively Christian form of love. Used by Christ to describe the love among the persons of the Trinity, it is also the love He commanded to his followers to have for one another. It is totally selfless love, which seeks not one’s own advantage but only to benefit or share with another.”
God’s four major attributes are: “His power, wisdom, justice and love. But His most appealing quality is His love”. Hence, it has been said that God is love” and love is God. Thus, love is always of God. In our Marriage Enrichment Seminar, we defined love of spouses as “the total giving of one’s self to the loved one for his/her partner’s happiness without expecting anything in return.” Hence, love is more about giving than receiving.
National artist for Literature F. Sionil Jose rightly said: “People who are in love are people who are willing to sacrifice to follow their hearts desires.” Thus, to give one’s life for the sake of another is the greatest expression of love. Our Lord Jesus Christ did that for our salvation.
From the magazine mentioned earlier, it reads, “Love is much more than a vague emotion or physical attraction. Practicing real love requires conscious choice and determination. Genuine love resolves to show kindness and patience (including mercy) in the face of suffering. It does not return evil for evil. People who exemplify this kind of love follow the example of God Himself, who is kind of the unthankful and evil”. God even tells us to “love our enemies” – meaning love the person but disapprove of his/her evil acts. Similarly, God’s commandment of “Honor thy father and mother” is an unconditional mandate.
When I was still the Provincial Administrator of Davao del Norte, I was invited to give an inspirational talk to victims of illegal drugs in New Corella Rehabilitation Center. I accepted the invitation despite my lack of knowledge about drug addiction. My main message to those drug patients was for them to “Seek God, place their lives in His hands and let God’s love heals them”. Some of my audience cried, embraced and thanked me after my talk. Tears welled in my eyes too.
Undoubtedly, we have a very sick society currently simply because our people, most especially many of our leaders, have forgotten the reasons for our being or why God created us in the first place. We can only heal our very sick society, if we “Seek God, place our messy and unjust society in His hands and let God’s love heals it. “This is the surest formula for real transformation – personal or societal.
We, Filipinos, are known to be very religious people. However, religious as we are, we utterly lack spirituality – meaning putting into practice our Faith. Furthermore, we have developed a distorted sense of the hierarchy of love. These are compounded by our lack of “transcendent purpose” in life. The right hierarchy of love is, love of God, country and family. Please don’t scramble this so as not to get in trouble.
Clearly, it is imperative that we all go back to the basics – God’s two supreme Commandments of Love of God and Love of Neighbor. As our Diamond Rule says, “To Love God, love your neighbor”.
In his recent article “Love Jesus”, one of my mentors, Fr. Emeterio Barcelona, SJ wrote: “The Scripture and personal dedication to love of Jesus (is) one thing we have to recover. (We must also) love our neighbor. Then we have the mandate to do great things for Jesus and our neighbor. Love Jesus. It has to be personal commitment and fervent dedication to do great things for God and country.”
To fittingly end this article, let’s be reminded of the pastoral principle espoused by Catholic Catechism that, “all the works of perfect Christian virtue spring form love and have no other objective than to arrive at love.”