– Thoughts of Gypsy Feet on Pilgrim Way…
Ms. Weena Salvador Meily
When I read the Sunday readings I love to play a little game. Like a child I get excited to look into the words, one word at a time, and “munch” on it. Savoring every word like a delicious rich moist chocolate fudge cake! (By the way, I love words and I play on it when I draw my poetry; but that is another story, save it for later.) Now back to the Sunday readings. This game goes like this. I read all the four Mass Readings – first reading, second reading, Psalm, and Gospel. Then I explore the environment, the space the words occupy. Then I allow myself to discover a word or words, a phrase, or theme that flows like a river that runs through a valley, nourishing it over and over again as it flows to the sea and back.
Now here’s the mystery that shrouds this game. Each and every time I make this prayerful reading, this ritual of sorts, this dance of particles and atoms and strings, I find that everything else, every reading, though with many common themes, and phrases and words, have only one message: Love. Yes love is a mystery. Oh that wonderful thing called love. So many poems written about it. So many songs about love. And yet is one of the greatest mysteries of all time. It is difficult to define and difficult to explain. In fact, I fall short of an explanation when I’m asked ‘what is love?’. I find myself telling my story, my experience of loving a man in my life (or men?! Good God forgive me, but they’re exciting stories!) And my struggle to love my Daddy and Mommy, my brother and now my daughter. I find myself going back to the past and tell my stories of ‘unloving’ or ‘misloving’ or ‘non-loving’ or ‘wrong-loving’ or even ‘messy-loving’. It seems like I will never be able to give a good description of love. But St. Paul, oh his words in 1 Cor 13:4-8a, best describes love, because he tells us by giving action words. Yes, love is indeed a verb!
So, in the readings of today, and particularly in the Gospel L-O-V-E is all over the place. I strongly feel the challenge here. And then a sudden flaring forth. Love your neighbor as you love yourself. The word is obviously a verb. It is a command. Wow. Ouch. I’m eating a lovely Leche Flan, so sweet, smooth and luscious. I love myself and so reward myself with this. Should I give this to my neighbor too? I bought a warm color-explodes-all-over shawl. Got myself a new mobile phone, a new car, a big new house, great big flat screen TV, i-Pod, iPhone, tablet whatever else you call these gadgets. I bought myself all these. Shall I reward them what I rewarded myself? “Para hindi ako ma-guilty, bibigyan ko ba rin ang mahihirap ng katapat na presyo ng binili ko?” Is that what loving neighbor as myself is? What does this ‘loving’ really mean? Of course, I never did buy all of the above, though there was a time when I perfectly had a choice to own them. And so many, many times, I was called to make a decision…
To love my neighbor is to be mindful of their presence. There are many, so many in need. So many of them. So many marginalized, pushed to the edges of society, almost falling off. I don’t need to explain economique. Dorothy Day sums it up when she said,
I am sure that God did not intend that there be so many poor. The class structure is of our making and our consent, not (His). It is the way we have arranged it and it is up to us to change it.
We are at the edge too, as we live our day to day. I listen to the many cries of mothers, washing women, women vendors, working students, our ALS Learners who don’t even have transport or lunch money, or rarely come to class with a full stomach. Regular home visitations help us, teachers/administrators understand our Learners’ family background. ‘Home’ to them may mean, a semi-luxurious flat in the heart of the Metro (some Learners work for hardworking families as ‘kasambahay’), a modest little one-room house in the heart of an urban poor community, a room with four families, a dismal corner of the underside of a flyover, and makeshift houses beside floodways, mosquito-infested creeks and other waterways. Living on the fringes of society is varied indeed. Our ALS Learners may don a different face of poverty. A flat in one of beautiful condos around the city may be a learner’s home but parents may not have the time for caring for the child. Older Learners may find their way to the Alternative Learning System via their employers as janitors, spa attendants, bar girls or Grab drivers. Living on the edge is everywhere. And what we need is best exemplified again by Dorothy Day,
The greatest challenge of the day is how to bring a revolution of the heart, a revolution which has to start with each one of us.
In today’s Gospel, ‘to love’ the other is ‘to love the self’. I think it’s another way of saying, Do unto others what you would have them do unto you. It’s a universal teaching and is found in all of the major religions of the world. It is a basic teaching that has been expounded on many, many times over by poets, writers, songwriters, novelists and homilists the world over. And the one good thing about this is that it is so self-explanatory.
I have done so many mistakes and have made messy decisions in my life. And love has taught me much and hurt me much and healed me much. Yes, love teaches, hurts and heals. Love can strike you in the head, and lose yourself in an instant. Love can whack you in the heart and cut you into pieces. Love can make you climb that mountain and dive into murky waters. Love can make you bleed over and over and over again. And love can lift you, and carry you, and give you wings to fly and soar high above the heavens and gently bring you back to the ground and hold your hand and walk with you on the path you carve for yourself and for others. Love looks at all persons equally, because I see Jesus in them…
JESUS is the refugee, the man on death row, the child at the border, the single mom with two jobs, the person with disability, the person living with HIV, the friend with an addiction, the woman sharing #metoo, the transgender coworker, the (ALS Learner) with no lunch money… THE LEAST OF THESE. –Anon.
If you (love) the least of these, you (love) me. Said Jesus in his good news. That is why it is good news! It is good because it recognizes the PRESENCE of the person as human as one who IS, despite her being least. St John Baptiste De la Salle called them, ‘the least, the last and the lost’. These are persons who cannot give back, or even pay back. We are living in a utilitarian era. Where everything should “give me gains”. In Filipino, “ano ba makukuha ko diyan?” “What do I get out of it?” “How much do I get out of it?” “How much credits do I earn for it?”
The good San Oscar Arnulfo Romero,
“(w)hen preaching at the cathedral…declared, Ipsum audite (Listen to him! Listen to Christ!). When praying at the Hospitalito he heard God saying, Ipsos audite (Listen to them! Listen to the cry of the sick!). The Hospitalito was another place where Romero encountered suffering. In the cancer-ridden bodies of the patients he saw the agony of the mothers of the disappeared and the hope of an entire nation. It was both (his) home and Gethsemane, a lonely place where he met God.” (http://churchlife.nd.edu/2018/10/24/the-liturgical-staging-of-saint-oscar-romeros-theology/#menuopen)
Being with the marginalized was a lonely place where “he met God”. Loneliness can be a feeling of lack of being loved. It can break you into pieces. Or it can disturb you and prod you into action. And yet loneliness can be a place where I, in my nothingness, in my littleness, in my most fallen state, in my most messy look, can meet God. The God who calls me to a life of conversion. Because love calls me to a change of heart.
The voice of the One who has made us and redeemed us calls to us in love, and waits for our hearts to awaken and respond with a corresponding love. – Anon.
Henri Nouwen speaks straight to the heart, when he said
The difficult road is the road of conversion, the conversion from loneliness into solitude. To live a spiritual life we must first find the courage to enter into the desert of our loneliness and to change it by gentle and persistent efforts into a garden of solitude.”
How difficult it truly is! This, this, road of conversion! Every day, we are challenged to decide to conversion. Every day we are called to love. And how difficult it truly is! Fr. Nouwen assures us then of having to “find the courage to enter into the desert of our loneliness”. That place of dry bones. That wilderness where searing heat pierces your body and drains you of all water. And step by step he tells us that we can be gentle and persistent in struggling to transform this desert into a garden where we can meet God, in our solitude. Where we can meet what God desires of us to do. Where we can meet the ordinariness of life and transform them into extraordinary meet ups with the God of small things. Where we can answer to that call to conversion each and every day – a life of conversion.
I may have lost a lot in the past – a house, things, friends, parents, books, so much of the material. But I will never lose my anchor on God and my faith, hope and love. I struggle. Every single day. But that’s how we all are. We battle. Many times we lose in these battles. But we will always win in Love. Because I may have come to a point in my life when all that matters is the LOVE OF GOD.