Sunday, September 4, 2011

Love is the Answer

Twenty Third Ordinary Sunday Year A

Many of us have different ideas of what community life is all about. At the heart of community is love. St. Paul tells us in the second reading: “Love is the one thing that cannot hurt your neighbour; that is why it is the answer to every one of the commandments.” Love is the answer. Not revenge, not keeping silent, not trying to find some human solution.

But what is love? Love is certainly not a feeling. Feelings come and go. Love isn’t about liking because to like or dislike someone or something is a feeling. Feelings are human emotions that are beyond our control. On the contrary, love is a decision. I can choose to love my enemy even if I dislike him. I can choose to forgive my enemy even if I continue to feel the hurt and the betrayal.

Love isn’t something that makes us feel good. Sometimes, love does make us feel good but feeling good is not essential. There are times when we are asked to love even when it pains us to do so. A father has to be firm about his son’s smoking habits even though he knows that his son will be angry with him and may not talk to him for weeks or months. This is tough love. Refusing to follow your friends in doing something which you know to be wrong, while knowing that you may lose their friendship. This is tough love.

Likewise in community, love requires us to be honest with one another. But out honesty must be constructive and based on love. We should not be telling each other off just because we want to get back at that person or make that person suffer. If we are honest with our words, it must done for the good of that other person and for the community. Very often, many of us find it difficult to tell the truth to our brothers and sisters in the community or even to our circle of friends. We don’t want to be the bad guy. We don’t want to lose their friendship. We try to justify our actions by saying that it is not loving to hurt the feelings of the other person.

Silence is never the solution. Very often, when we choose not to confront our brother or sister or friend with the truth, we will talk about it in gossip with other persons. Gossip never helps anyone. Gossip does not help the community. Neither would it help your friend to grow. The loving thing would be to speak your friend in a gentle way and dialogue with him. There are times that he will be able to accept what you have said. There are times he will not be able to accept it. There are times your relationship will even be strain. But it is better to have a relationship that is strained by the truth, which will eventually help both parties to grow, than a relationship that is covered in lies.

Love places a duty on us to confront the evil that our brother and sister has done. But our duty is not to change the other person. That person alone can choose to change. What do we do if the person refuses to change? You must then decide as a community whether that person should remain within the community and continue to cause harm to the members and to the unity of the community or this person needs to be excluded for the good of the whole community. It is never an easy decision. But whatever the decision, it must always be done out of love. Love for that person and love for each member of the community.

Jesus gives us the power to forgive. This is not just merely a power but a gift and a command. Our community is not perfect because its members are not perfect. Therefore, forgiveness is always a necessary expression of love. Let us continue to pray for our BECs and our parish communities. Community may sometimes seem impossible to establish. But everything is possible with God who loves us. Let us forgive one another as he has forgiven us.

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