The Lord’s passion: Love

GOD’S WORD TODAY - Ruben M. Tanseco S.J. - The Philippine Star

God is love. And the way to profound love is the cross. God became man to show us the way – the way of the cross as the means to perfect love. Not just self-love but love for God and for all others. “You shall love the Lord your God, with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” (Lk. 10:27). This is the one and only law of the all-loving God. All others flow from this, which includes compassion. Indeed, the human life of Christ was full of compassion to one and all, including the most unlovable. “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you” (Lk. 6:27).

His healings were countless. The cleansing of the leper, the healing of the centurion’s servant, the cure of Peter’s mother-in-law, to mention of few. “When it was evening, they brought him many who were possessed by demons, and he drove out the spirits by a word and cured all the sick to fulfill what had been said by Isaiah the prophet: ‘He took away our infirmities and bore our diseases’” (Mt. 8:16-17)). Moreover: “Jesus went around to all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and curing every disease and illness. At the sight of the crowds, his heart was moved with pity for them because they were troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest’” (Mt. 9:35-38).

And why are God’s laborers few? What are the conditions of discipleship? Jesus said to his disciples: “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Mt. 16:24-25).

Yes, for his sake. At a later time, he clarified this when he told his disciples: “Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your slave. Just so, the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and give his life as a ransom for many” (Mt. 20:26-28). In other words, Christ gave his life out of love for us. And that is what he is now inspiring us to do. To give our lives to one another, out of love. His crucifixion was the climax of his love for us.

Once again, my memory goes back to our beloved young Filipino Jesuit martyr, our 26-year-old seminarian, Bro. Richie Fernando, S.J., who died in Cambodia last Oct. 17, 1996. He was teaching at the Technical School for the Handicapped – for disabled victims of polio and landmines. His heart was for the poor. In a letter to his fellow-Jesuit, he wrote: “Tet, I know where my heart is, It is with Jesus Christ. Jesus who gave His all for the poor, the sick, the orphans, etc. I feel as if I am beginning to understand more when I say, I want to be like Christ. I will follow Jesus. I am Jesus’ friend and companion. I am a Jesuit. I know where my heart is.” One fatal day, a violent, angry student was carrying a grenade with the intention of killing his fellow students. Bro. Richie intervened to save the students. Let me quote what was written in his biography: “‘Get away! Save yourselves! Vibol, run!’ Richie shouted to the students as he grappled with Pim Sarom, a troubled student who was holding a grenade intended to be thrown at his fellow students in violent anger. The grenade fell and exploded behind Richie. In that grenade explosion killing Richie, the fragments of Richie’s story fell into place like a jigsaw puzzle. He was able to save all, including the grenade-thrower at the cost of his life. The star of courage and brotherly love did shine brightly that day and a great mystery of another narrative began to unfold.” Not only that. You can just imagine the pain and grief that Richie’s family went through. The cost of love.

Let us move now to this couple who have been married for 12 years with three children, aged 10, 8, and 5. The couple were very close to each other. They were literally the best of friends and the most passionate of lovers. But then, the company where the husband was working closed down, and he ended without a job. He worked hard looking for a new job, but he did not succeed. Finally, there was one possibility, but it was abroad, as an OFW (overseas Filipino worker). Our couple were so emotionally attached to each other, but they decided for the husband to take the job for the sake of the children. For both, a heavy cross to carry indeed, but they did, as Christ carried his. So many of our poor, Filipino couples are carrying similar crosses, but inspired by Christ, they are able to go on, looking forward to the resurrection that Christ himself experienced.

My ministry as a professional counselor is a compassionate and empathetic reaching out to those who are seeking help. I am sharing this, not to praise myself, but to express my profound gratitude to God for giving me this ministry, which He also gives to many others. For the more than 40 years that I have been in this ministry, I have witnessed countless miracles that God has performed, provided the counselees (individuals, couples, families) responded to Christ by carrying their own crosses out of love, and not out of egoism. There is no substitute for a psycho-spiritual approach, provided the counselees are more than willing to set aside their egos and cling to God, no matter how difficult the cross may be. The ultimate result is death and resurrection, as Christ himself experienced.

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