27th Sunday in Ordinary Time
I have a friend who sums up her “love life” using lyrics of some songs: It starts off with Kuh Ledesma’s I Think I’m in Love: “Is this love? Feeling restless inside… wanting you to be always by my side…” Then, with Elvis Presley’s words, it develops into: “Can’t help falling in love.” And REO Speedwagon’s words: “Can’t fight this feeling anymore.” Then the mood changes. It turns out to be – in the words of Morris Albert: “Feelings… nothing more than feelings… trying to forget my feelings of love.” Then the angst, the anger, the bitterness – expressed in the song of Phil Collins: “You have no right to ask me how I feel… You have no right to speak to me so kind… now that we are living separate lives.” Then the sad reality sets in – as sung by Bonnie Tyler: “Once upon a time, I was falling in love… Now, I’m only falling apart… There’s nothing I can do… Total eclipse of the heart.” And, according to my friend, her love life ends with the song of the Righteous Brothers: “You’ve lost that lovin’ feelin’… Now it’s gone, gone, gone…”
What is the common denominator of the songs I mentioned? They say, in one way or another, that love is a feeling. “Love is feeling.” That is a most dangerous equation! Why? Because feelings come and go. So, we fall in love and we also fall out of love – without any conscious or deliberate decision on our part. No wonder so many starry-eyed young brides and bridegrooms, who entered into marriage on the presumption that they would ‘feel’ intense ‘love’ for the rest of their lives end up by separating within a year or two or three.
Loving that is based on feeling can never be permanent, precisely because feelings come and go. Kasi nga kapag “tuyo na ang damdamin, wala na ring pag-ibig, wala na ring pagmamahal. Loving this way has brought about so much sadness, frustration, loneliness, depression, and woundedness to the world.
Today’s gospel offers a very different picture of what love is. For Jesus, the true notion of love lies, not in feelings, but in commitment. Love is a commitment which entails a separation from one’s family and a lifelong companionship through joy and sorrow – “for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness or in health, to love and to cherish ‘till death do us part.”
With this kind of love, one is able to say: “Even if you do not like me anymore, I still love you.” “Even if you refuse to forgive me, I still love you.” “Even if I do not need you anymore, I still love you.” “I love you not because of, but in spite of…” “Love is the only reason for my loving you…” “I have committed myself to loving you, no matter what.” Let me remind the married couples who are here that this is the essence of the marital vows you made on your wedding – and should be making everyday for the rest of your life: the commitment to love one another… no matter what.
It does not mean that such love is without feeling; on the contrary, it will be accompanied by a great variety of feelings. Aside from the ephemeral glow of romantic feeling, it will know tenderness, humor, concern, compassion. And many other feelings. But it will go beyond feelings; it will essentially be rooted in a free decision – a constantly renewed choice to affirm the other person at whatever personal cost. Knowing full well that such determination is, on the long run, the only road leading to lasting happiness.
The deepest spiritual purpose, the fundamental vocation of married couples, is to mirror to the world what God is like: God who is Love. The purpose of Christian marriage is to symbolize Christ’s love for the Church. Married couples, listen to me… the Church asks you… To give yourselves to one another, body, and soul, and be a visible sign of Christ’s self-giving love. To be faithful to one another, steadfast in your love, and be a mirror of Christ’s faithful love. To forgive one another, seventy times seven times, and be a living reminder of Christ’s forgiving love.
The Church asks you, my dear married couples, to read your marriage spiritually: that is, to realize that your marriage is not about you; rather, it is a vehicle through which God’s purposes are being worked out, being fulfilled.