25th Sunday in Ordinary Time
How do you call a relationship that is based on self-interest and self-seeking? How do you label a relationship that is predicated on how much each person gains from the other? How do you characterize people who enter or engage in a friendship of convenience? What do you think of people who say something like this: “I need you, I need him, I need her, I need that person, for my business interest…or for my political ambition…or for my social climbing…or for my future venture.” “As long as I stay close to that person, I may get that nice job, or that coveted position, or that instant promotion.” “I married him for his money – I don’t even love him that much. I know I can make a fortune after his death. I will be rich!”
Such a relationship or friendship or marriage can be called ‘mercenary’ – meaning, business-like or calculating or grasping. You can confidently predict that such a relationship will fall apart soon. When the interest is gone, when the gain is canceled out, when the benefit is lost, the relationship is broken.
These things that we really treasure – relationship, friendship and marriage – those are all commitments that are undertaken for their own sake, and not for the gains or benefits we get from them. That is why, according to Bishop Robert Barron, the litmus test of friendship is this: A true friend is willing to give his life for his or her companion. A true husband is willing to sacrifice everything for his wife. A true wife is willing to renounce everything for her husband. If you are willing to sacrifice everything and to give your life to someone, clearly you are not doing it because you are getting something out of it. You have, in a mysterious way, transcended self-interest. “I pledge my love for you. I commit to sacrifice everything for you. I am not in this relationship for benefits and gains.”
Our readings for today are all about that great principle. The Bible constantly and sternly warns against entering into a ‘mercenary’ relationship with God – a friendship of self-interest and convenience. We should not love God simply because doing so has many advantages and will produce many benefits and consolations in our life. We should not befriend God merely for material blessings, for our physical wellbeing, for our mental health, for our financial security – or for our petitions to be granted. We must enter into a personal, intimate relationship with God, where we fall in love not with his benefits, but with his person.
An immature person in the spiritual life may think: “Well, I will love God because I am confident that all kinds of benefit and gains can come to me from that relationship.” “If I have a relationship with God, if I pray to him, I will be able to realize my dreams and ambitions…my career will advance or my business will prosper.” “If I have friendship with the Lord Jesus, if I always invoke his name, I will be protected from pain and suffering, from illness and affliction…my loved ones will not die when I am not yet ready to let go.” There is simply nothing in the Bible to justify such an assumption. It is precisely because the Bible is not interested in cultivating a mercenary love for God. Rather, the Bible is interested in cultivating a personal, intimate relationship with God. Again, we must enter into friendship with the Lord, in which we fall in love, not with his benefits, but with him – with his very person – and nothing less.
We have to examine ourselves and ask this question: Can I reach the point where I can say: “I love God simply for his own sake, and not for the benefits and gains I may get from that relationship.” If can reach that point, then we have attained spiritual maturity.
May isang awit na ang lyrics ay batay sa panalangin ni San Francisco Javier na ang pamagat ay O Diyos, Iniibig Kita. At ang unang bahagi ay ganito: O Diyos, iniibig, iniibig Kita Hindi dahil lamang sa ‘king pag-asa Na aking makamtan ang langit kong pita At di rin dahilan sa aking pangamba Na kapag Ikaw ay hindi ‘ko sininta Ay apoy ang aking kakamting parusa. Ang huling talata nito ay ganito ang sinasabi: Di dahil sa gawad na nais kong kamtin Hindi dahil dito kita iibigin Kung paanong ako ay iniibig Mo, Gayun din ang aking pag-ibig sa ‘Yo Ang tanging dahilan ng lahat ng ito Ay ‘pagka’t hari Ka at tunay na Diyos ko.
What St. Francis Xavier is saying in this prayer is this: We should love the Lord Jesus not for the hope of winning heaven or escaping hell, not with the hope of gaining anything at all or seeking a reward…but to love him as he has loved us. We should love the Lord Jesus because he is our God and our King.