23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time   

            The Beatles wrote a popular song titled, “All You Need Is Love.”That line is repeated in the song no less than 51 times.

            At first glance, St. Paul appears to be saying the same thing in today’s second reading from his Letter to the Romans (13:8-10). But I seriously doubt whether the Beatles’ idea of love is the same with St. Paul’s. Because the way I see it or hear it, the Beatles’ idea of love, at least in that particular song, is based on the world’s – which is limited to the sentimental or romantic kind of love.

            Certainly, this is not what Paul means when he reminds us of the commandment of love that fulfills the law – he says, “Owe nothing to anyone, except to love one another, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.” What St. Paul means in this statement is that: we fulfill the demands of the law by loving. For love is at the heart of the law of Christ.

            Ilang beses ko nang nabanggit ang definition ni St. Thomas sa pag-ibig: “Love is willing the good of the other as other.” So, love is not a feeling, love is not a sentiment. Love is an act of the will: it is willing the good of the other, and, then, doing something about it.

            Batay rito, ang pag-ibig ay nakatuon sa iba, hindi sa sarili. Ang pinahahalagahan nito ay ang kabutihan at kapakanan ng iba, hindi ang sariling interes at pakinabang. You see what love accomplishes: it breaks us out of our own ‘egos’, out of the confines of our own small worlds. Love moves us away from getting drawn unto ourselves, or from getting sucked and stuck on our own wants and desires, and allows us to reach out to the other in a life-giving way. So, love is an invitation to a deeper and more meaningful life. That is what God wants for us.

            Magandang maging batayan ito ng pagsusuri ng sarili o self-examination. By the way, we should make it a practice or exercise to examine ourselves at the end of the day. Suriin kung paano tayo namuhay sa loob ng isang araw. At dapat may malinaw na panuntunan o batayan ang pagsusuri natin ng sarili. And here is the criterion: Have we loved? Nagmahal ba tayo? I do not mean that in a superficial or sentimental or romantic way. In light of St. Thomas’ definition of love, the question is: Have we willed the good of the other, and have we done something about it?

            Maaari nating mahalin – sa katunayan, ayon sa atas ng Panginoon, dapat nating mahalin – maging ang mga taong hindi natin gusto, ayaw natin ang attitude o ugali, ni ayaw nating makita o makasama. We can love even the people who rub us the wrong way, people who hurt us, people who sin against us. At the end of the day we should ask ourselves: Did I love or not? Did I love by willing the good of others and by doing something about it? Did I love by helping someone be a better person? Did I love by being understanding, patient and forgiving? Did I love by looking after the welfare of my neighbor?

            It is in this context that we must look at the touchy, sensitive issue of fraternal correction – that today’s gospel reading talks about. The Lord is telling us about when, how and to what extent do we correct those who sin against us. Following the line of question I’ve just suggested for self-examination, we should also ask ourselves: Did I love by setting aside my prejudice against somebody and by continuing to reach out to that person in spite of my negative experience with him or her? Did I love by doing everything the Lord Jesus asks me to do, step by step, as directed and detailed in the gospel, to win over my brother or my sister? Did I love by seeking reconciliation with my brother or my sister who sins against me?

            Genuine care (love) shows itself in the interest we take for the welfare of others and in the help we offer them to be better persons and better Christians. Such a loving concern will sometimes also take the form of admonishing and warning someone who is doing evil. That is what we call tough love.

            St. Paul tells us “Owe nothing to anyone, except to love one another.” Sa madaling sabi, isang bagay lang ang dapat maging dahilan o motibo natin sa pagtatama sa kapatid natin: PAG-IBIG. Ang isang Kristiyano na tunay na nagpapahalaga, nagmamahal at nagmamalasakit sa kapwa ay hindi nahihiya, hindi nag-aalangan, hindi nagdadalawang-isip, hindi natatakot na ituwid o itama ang pagkakamali ng kapatid.

            However, we must keep in mind what somebody said about this matter: “People will not care what you know until they know that you care.” This is absolutely true in the context of fraternal (sisterly) correction. In admonishing and correcting a brother or a sister, we should really try first to make him or her feel our genuine care and concern – nothing less. Whatever we do or say to a brother or sister who sins should be motivated by love, and by love alone.           

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