As a priest, I hear many stories throughout the day. Many times I have to keep these stories to myself. It is called the seal of confession. There are times though, that I get into a light exchange with others, and sometimes they share with me the latest “tsismis” in town, or I overhear them speak about the latest, “Guess what so and so did?” or “You know who is with whom?” stories.

I have to admit that I am often disappointed at the emphasis people give to topics such as “Who is having an affair with whom?” or “Who is gay and who is not” or “She did this and not the….” It makes me think that sometimes people do miss the point of living. Consequently, for many people, the things that matter most become blurry and obscure. I am even tempted to ask the person who sounds like a broken record or who has not found a just tune to her song this question: “What is truly important in your life?”

I suppose if I did approach people with this question, the answers given would be as varied and unique as each individual. Yet, in the final analysis, the bottom line I believe (I pray and hope) is: my family and my relationships. need not ask this question per se because I hear it told to me in different ways throughout the day. Sometimes a little bit distorted, but I console myself with the belief that the bottom line is LOVE.

Undoubtedly, love truly makes the world go round. Love songs sell. They speak of what is in the deepest recesses of a man’s heart and soul every second of the day. People are constantly searching for love, complaining about the lack of it, complaining about the abuse of it, and so on. So, Christ was not mistaken in asking us to love. For what matters most is LOVE. Yet, somewhere along the way of loving, we fall into the trap of being self-righteous. We become myopic and tend to think that only our ways work; only our ways are correct and upright. We tend to judge others according to our standards. We let love become immortalized only in the lyrics and melody of songs. We have difficulty making our actual love story (not just the romantic ones) the lived-out song we pass on from generation to generation.

This is certainly not what God meant when he commanded us to love. His “song” remains the same through the years, “Love one another as I have loved you.” Those lines come through everywhere in Christ’s life.

Indeed, love is such a used, overused, misused, abused word. What does it really mean to love somebody? Jesus once said, “No greater love is there than this: to lay down one’s life for a friend.” In reality, we cannot really keep dying for our friends in the strict sense of the word. Yes, we die to our selfish desires to give way to our loved ones, but how long can a love relationship be sustained with all these self-effacements? To die for a loved one is the ultimate, of course. But what is everyday loving like? We cannot see it as everyday dying. That is unrealistic and does not set the right tone either.

Remember, Jesus also said, “You are the salt of the earth; the light of the world. Do not hide your light under a bushel. Let it shine forth where it can bring forth radiance.” If you “die to self” constantly, the light our spirits carry runs the risk of being snuffed out. Dying to self does not mean killing the life or the light within us. When we sacrifice, it must also be life-giving for us so that we, too, can reach out in love and reflect God’s light.

Loving is bringing light to people in darkness. You cannot give what you do not have. To have light and to have love, we must be in constant communication with the source of these, God and God alone.

Loving is listening to someone who has some heartaches. Loving is a smile you give to someone who is visibly sad or troubled. Loving is moving all the way to the other end or to the center of the church pew to give way to people inching their way in.

In almost every place and in every situation, there is a more loving thing to do. We have to make an effort to discover it. We have to set our minds on that mode.

I truly wish that instead of cutting up people with what we think is wrong with them, perhaps the world could become a better place if we channeled our energies into thinking of ways we can creatively love other people. Instead of dwelling on the wrong things that people in our home or community seem to be doing, perhaps it is way overdue for us to find the beauty in them. It is long overdue for us to get to really know them, understand them, and see them with eyes of compassion. How wonderful this world can be if we just direct all our energies into asking ourselves, “How can I make my neighbor happy? What does my neighbor need today?” “Neighbor” is defined as anyone we encounter. The world may truly be a better place if we replaced thoughts like, “So that faggot came at 2:00 a.m. again.” “Those guys next door smoke so much that I can smell the cigarettes all the way to the living room and that noise they make…” etc.

Instead, the idea is to ask ourselves, “Where is the darkness where I can bring my light?” What can I do to make this person believe in himself, love himself, and avoid trouble? Do I see just the “gay” lifestyle of my neighbor or the “adulterer” in him? Or do I let compassion take possession of me?

Maybe if we all stop concentrating on the trouble our neighbors make and instead love them enough to keep them away from trouble, our lives will be abuzz not with gossip but with the love songs of the Gospel.

Jesus Our Light

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