+pro ovibus suis
By Fr. ALAN ROSS BANOGON, SDB
Good Friday 14 Apr 17 • DBTC Chapel
I came across the following YouTube video sometime ago.
It shows kids having to decide between helping a homeless man or getting an ice cream cone. It tugs at the heart. It strikes a chord within. Why?
Because giving is never natural to kids. Let me correct that. Giving is never natural to us. It is not instinctive like eating, sleeping or drinking. We are by nature selfish. We were born with our fists clenched.
At lot of kids’ quarrels (and a good number of adults’ too) are about “dili mo share” or “dalo sya” or “he took what was mine”. That’s why these kids’ generosity are so pleasantly surprising. They made a choice, certainly painful for them, to give, rather than keep.
Mother Theresa of Calcutta is known for a quote: “Give until it hurts.”
Actually, since giving goes against nature, it will always hurt. You can ignore it, you can deny it, it will be there. And the more precious the gift, the greater the hurt.
I’d like to put this as context of what we are celebrating this afternoon. I personally feel it is the only perspective with which we can make sense of today’s liturgy.
Today’s liturgy is called The Celebration of the Passion of the Lord. Who in his sane mind celebrates pain?
Its second part is called the Veneration of the Cross. Why would Christians get a kick out of venerating an instrument of torture? Death by crucifixion was an extremely horrible, excruciatingly (from ex and crux – get it?) painful way to die. Why celebrate it?
I can think of three reasons.
One, because the suffering of Jesus measures the generosity of God the Father towards us. “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all.” Rm 8:32 I don’t think that “giving up” of an only son was painless.
Two, because it measures the generosity of Jesus to the Father who gave himself up in obedience to His will even to death – death on the cross (Phil 2:8) This certainly wasn’t painless.
Three, it measures the generosity of Jesus to us, that “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rm 5:8) He handed himself over and took upon himself our punishment so that by his wounds we are healed. (Is 53:5)
There is a word for the Father’s gift of Jesus to us, the self-gift of Jesus to the Father and Jesus’ gift of himself to us. It is called LOVE. True love will always involve pain. It will always invovle giving.
Remember a while back i quoted Mother Theresa? Actually the complete quote is: “This is the meaning of true love, to give until it hurts” (from Works of Love are Works of Peace, Ignatius Press).
I believe this is the meaning of what we celebrate today. We celebrate Christ’s passion, the testament to his self gift to us. We celebrate his love for us.
And that is why the paramount symbol of Christ’s love for us is not the Sacred Heart, even if it does bear the symbols of his passion – the wounded heart and the crown of thorns.
It is the cross, planted on the crudest capilla to the most majestic cathedral of Christendom. It recalls every wound, every bruise, every drop of blood in that battered body that screams, “This is how much I love you!”
The cross is also a measure of how much we love each other. Loving, will always involve the gift of self, will always involve pain. There was an age when men used to woo ladies thus:
Alang kanimo kab-uton ko ang langit;
sa kinatas-ang bungtod pangalan mo isinggit.
Alang kanimo sawumon ko ang kinailadmang lawod,
ug sungsungon ko sa way kahadlok kinadakang balod.
Tam-is mong gugma andam pakamatyan,
mga babag ug pagsulay di ko atrasan.
It is all here: self gift, pain, love.
Married couples too promise to love each other for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, for richer or for poorer. I suspect real love is tested in the worse, sickness and poorer part.
Allow me a last example to drive home the point.
In “Fiddler on the Roof,” Tevye’s wife Golde was upset he gave permission to Perchik to marry thier daughter Hodel. To pacify her, he persistently asks her the question, “Do you love me?”
In exasperation she answers, “Do i love you? For 25 years I’ve washed your clothes, cooked your meals, cleaned your house, given you children, milked the cow, why talk about love right now?”
And further down she continues, “For 25 years I lived with him, fought with him, starved with him. 25 years my bed is his. If that’s not love, what is?”
The three are still here: self gift, pain, and love.
When we kids are popped Tevye’s question by a parent, “Do you love me?” and “I do” doesn’t count because they would just be, as Hamlet would say, “words, words, words.”
How would the answer be?
Would it be along the lines of, “I made my bed, cleaned my room, studied my lessons, did my homework, passed my exams, got home by five, ran your errands, ate my veggies, washed the dishes, took out trash, gave up Facebook from Monday to Friday”?
Because that would be what love is. these are things we give, things that cost us, that show we truly love.
This is the true way of the cross: pain, self gift, love: greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends (Jn 15:13)
“This is the meaning of true love: give until it hurts” Until it doesn’t hurt, we have not truly loved.