“I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, you too must love one another. Love one another as I have loved you”. This is Jesus’ last message to his disciples. Love is the central theme of God’s relationship with man. It is this infinite love for which God sent his only son to become incarnate, to reveal himself to us and to die on the cross so that we may be reconciled with him and become heirs of eternal life.
In March 2016, Pope Francis presented his post-synodal apostolic exhortation titled “Amores Laetitia” following the Family Synods held in 2014 and 2016. The Synods were convened to address issues and challenges concerning families in today and the institution of marriage. The Synods on the Family addressed the pastoral care of the Catholic Church towards families, particularly with regard to, among other things, the access of divorced people living in new unions to the sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist. The Holy Father, in his apostolic exhortation, underlined the joy of love in the family, which he equated with the joy of the Church and the love of God. So, God wants love to be the driving force in every marriage and to be so in the family and, by extension, for every man.
In the words of Francis, “In the human family, gathered together by Christ, the ‘image and likeness’ of the Most Holy Trinity has been restored, the mystery from which all true love flows. Through the Church, marriage and the family receive the grace of the Holy Spirit of Christ, in order to witness to the Gospel of God’s love. Surely, the joyful and life-giving love of the family is born out of the experience of the joyful and life-giving love of God. The teaching of the Church on the family is therefore in itself a joyful act. For this teaching is first and foremost the passionate proclamation of the “gospel of the family,” the simple yet profound truth that God loves all people in and through the family.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus gives his disciples his farewell message that last night in the upper room. And the message was to love one another. This is the truest mark of being one of his disciples. This love is not an exclusive love, limited only to the one we want to love. We are asked to transmit this love to others, even to our enemies, because we have been gifted with a relationship with him. By showing love, we reveal God to the world. Yet it is easy to love people who do us good but infinitely difficult to express this love to those who hate us or cause us pain and suffering. But as already said, giving that very love to our enemies is the true mark of discipleship.
Now that the elections are over, this capacity to love and this willingness to obey God’s injunction to love our neighbour, even those who have wronged us or who, in our opinion, have caused injustice to the community in any form, will be tested again. The division engendered by the recently concluded presidential elections makes it even more difficult to love those who disagree with or are contrary to our political beliefs and loyalties. But God’s command to love is unequivocal. He commands us to love even our enemies. It is for this reason that we must transcend our petty and puny selves to learn to understand the “other side” of political and social enclosure. In the end, it is not selfishness that will get us through the difficulties we will face as a community, as a nation, but a relationship of compassion, understanding and selflessness.
Our nation is not yet out of the pandemic that has wreaked havoc on us and is wreaking havoc on all of us. The economy is moribund, inflation is soaring, with millions out of work, but political disunity and discord lurk in the shadows to surface at the first opportunity, not to mention chaos in the realm of relations international.
Whether Marcos or Robredo, the newly elected president must form a government of national unity. Such a government is not just a marriage of political families or even geographical regions like the Solid North and Mindanao but a unity of interests and stakeholders. Concretely, I would consider Marcos’ national unity pledge serious if he supports the release of Senator Leila De Lima (by her prosecutors dropping their objections to her bail requests), also allows the temporary release of political detainees elderly and sick for humanitarian reasons, supports the opening of Lumad schools in Mindanao which have been closed by the Duterte government, orders an immediate end to the killings in the war on drugs, continues the Philippine government’s respect for the global Bangsamoro agreement and resumes peace negotiations with the National Development Front.
National unity is possible. It should be motivated by the love of the other, the love of the country and yes the love of the neighbour. Will our new leaders live up to this requirement and make the hard choices to truly unite us?
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