12th Sunday in Ordinary Time
John Powell, a Jesuit and a writer, has a book with a very interesting title, “Why Am I Afraid to Love?” According to the author, there is a great capacity and desire to love and to be loved within each of us. But sad to say, many people do not experience the greatness, the beauty, the fulfillment of loving and being loved. They never know the exhilarating experience of human love because they fear rejection and indifference from others.
“Why am I afraid to love?” The simple answer to that question, according to the book, is – allow me to use the first person singular: “Because I am afraid of exposing myself and of making myself vulnerable to others.” “I see or imagine myself to be inadequate or ugly, not good enough to be accepted and appreciated, and much less, to be loved by others.” “I build walls to protect myself from rejection I fear from others.”
If we closely examine our lives, we will see the various walls that prevent us from loving and being loved – walls we put up to protect ourselves from getting hurt by rejection. We need to tear or bring down those walls because they prevent us from realizing our full potential for enjoying love and life. Obviously, we need to overcome the fear of rejection. And it starts with accepting ourselves as we are.
Marianne Williamson, in her book “A Return to Love,” comments: “Love is what we were born with; but fear is what we have learned in this life.” “The spiritual journey is the relinquishment – or unlearning – of fear and the acceptance of love back into our hearts.” “Love is the existential fact. It is our ultimate reality and our purpose on earth.” “To be consciously aware of it, to experience love in ourselves and others, is the meaning of life.”
Powell and Williamson are saying the same thing: We have to overcome fear, particularly the fear of rejection. We have to learn self-acceptance, which implies dismissing the voices from within and from without that tell us that we are not beautiful enough to be loved by others. In this way, we bring love back into hearts – allowing ourselves to love and to be loved.
In his encyclical letter, Deus Caritas Est, Pope Benedict XVI reiterates the truth that we have the capacity and the ability to love “because we are created in the image of God.” We are told “to do all we can with what strength we have” to manifest our capacity and ability to love. It is this task of loving which keeps the good servant of Jesus Christ at work.” The Pope reminds us, “The love of Christ impels us.’” This line is actually from St. Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians which we also heard in today’ second reading.
What St. Paul is telling us in this line is this: The love of God that Christ made manifest is the same love that enables us to love God and our neighbor. The love of Jesus, the Incarnate Love of God, urges us and empowers us to love. Let me paraphrase that… or let me concretize that idea…
The love of Christ impels us to risk losing what we have so that others may be enriched; to sacrifice our own comfort so that others may be comforted in some way. The love of Christ urges us to live no longer for ourselves, but for others. The love of Christ exhorts us not to be preoccupied with the satisfaction of our wants and desires but with meeting the needs of our sisters and brothers. The love of Christ requires us to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, care for the sick, visit prisoners, give shelter to the homeless, defend the weak. The love of Christ drives us to personally share and actively participate in his life and mission – to be his mission partners and collaborators by generously sharing our time, talents and resources in the service of our neighbor and parish community. The love of Christ drives us to manifest our love by living out the spirituality of stewardship. Here in OLMMP, you are given the venue to do that through our Balik-Handog.
Or course, the question is: Are we allowing the love of Christ to impel us, to urge us, to exhort us, to require us, to drive us to embrace his self-sacrificing way? If we are truly open to the realization of Christ’s love for us we will want to make some response of our own love. We will respond to Christ’s love by loving others. Indeed, the love of Christ impels us… to love as he loves.