“Huwag kang iiyak, kasalanan mo iyan.” I once overheard a ten-year-old girl, small for her age but sounding like a real adult. She was speaking to her little sister, who looked like she was about four years old. Then the ten-year old started threatening the little one with, “Sige kung umiyak ka, iwanan kita”.

I could not help but recall the many times I have heard this comment uttered by adults to their whining children. I have often wondered why parents use such threatening words and do not mean them. This ten-year-old was repeating something she had been programmed to respond to all these years. I am sure she has begun to understand that these words should not be taken at face value. They are meant to be empty threats. They are intended to elicit the reaction the adults want of the child.

When we want people to learn a concept, a word, or a habit, we repeat it as often as possible, especially with children. The more it is repeated, the easier and quicker it is learned.

Psychologists have proven that when children are allowed free play and exposed to a similar environment as that of a home, they begin to act out and repeat most of the lines they hear from all the significant adults in their lives. So if we are to record their dialogue or monologue, we will hear “adult lines” and adult conversations – several decibels higher.

It did not take too long for the four-year-old to stop crying. Why she stopped, I guess, I will never really be sure. Did she stop because she was afraid to be left behind or because it was time to stop? After all, she got the attention she wanted?

Funny, but one of my little peeves when I officiate at weddings is when I ask the bride, “Are you ready to give yourself to him as his wife?” And the bride answers, “I do!” When I ask, “Are you ready to raise as good Christians the children God will give you? The answer is again, “I do!” The answer to these questions is either “Yes, Father” or “I am” to the former and “Yes, we are” to the latter, not “I do!”

This is what I mean by programming. Almost everyone knows the most awaited answer at a wedding ceremony is: “I do.” They no longer listen to the question and automatically answer “I do” to any question in the marriage rite. I sometimes wonder if that has any bearing on their awareness of the covenant they are sealing in marriage.

In our spiritual lives, we hear the same scripture readings repeatedly shifted around throughout the years. If we truly pay attention, we should know all these scripture readings by heart. Yet, it seems we often hear some Biblical stories for the first time. We sometimes await the punch line: “The Word of the Lord.” so we can respond by saying, “Thanks be to God” or “Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.” We understand or listen to the Word of God only when the priest giving the homily explains it in more practical everyday language. Silently, we say, “Ah ganoon pala iyon.” Or if we ask our neighbor what the reading was about, more often than not, our neighbor can’t recall. Even if he heard it less than one minute before our asking. How many of us hear without listening? How many of us are programmed to switch to another channel called daydreaming when the Lector proclaims the scripture readings in Church? Then switch back only when we hear our cue words: “The Word of the Lord.” Is that the way our minds are programmed?

Is it more like we are so used to hearing the exact words that we hear it like a song but never reflect on what the lyrics of the song mean?

Is that why many of the lessons of Christian living that Christ has been drumming into our heads have been left unlived? We are not listening. We are beginning to act like programmed robots. Whatever is repeated more often or acted out more often is what we remember the most. Gospel values are for Sundays only. They should not be bothered with the rest of the week.

Even going back to thatat comment “Huwag kang liyak, kasalanan mo iyan.” What does that statement mean? Crying is reserved only for expressing someone else’s culpability or liability in our pained lives. We cannot cry if we have caused ourselves pain. We can only cry if someone else hurts us?!

Pain is pain. We all make mistakes, and oftentimes mistakes do hurt. The most natural way of expressing pain is with tears–by crying. Whoever inflicted the pain does not matter. The fact remains that we are hurt, and crying helps alleviate that pain somehow. Are we then programmed to react to crying in certain situations as non-acceptable? Do we hear the outward signs of the crying, or do we hear that the person is hurting, whether the pain is self-inflicted or not?

We ought to be careful when we are about to utter some words that sound familiar. Are we merely parroting something we have learned to say but not fully comprehended?

Maybe that is why some of us do not take God seriously when He says, “Love one another as I have loved you.” First of all, do we really believe, and I mean really and truly believe, that God loves each of us individually, or do we think this statement is addressed to everybody else except ourselves? Do we take God seriously, or do we think He is just trying to appease, pacify or console us in some empty way? I genuinely hope not.

The good news is God means everything He has ever said. This message is universal and forever. He said it once, and He says it repeatedly, depending on our need at the moment we need it. The language or the mode of expression varies. We must work on believing it fully. He does not repeat lessons to program us. He repeats it often, never like the last time, but it carries the same message. “I love you. You are mine. Whether or not you cause yourself so much pain as you tend to do, whether you are convinced of this love and try to tell other people about it because I said so and not because of conviction. I will continue to love you. And if it means for me to vary the ways of telling you this to be the point that you feel that I have abandoned you and you are in such deep pain, let me assure you I have not. I will never abandon you. I want to make sure you get the message without my sounding like I am merely programming a computer.”

This is God speaking. He will not stop until we listen and are convinced, not programmed.

Jesus Our Light

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