There is no question that love is the essence of all religions. There is no doubt in our minds that love is the essence of the message of Jesus Christ. In fact, if we behaved in a not so loving manner, we hear comments like, “Parang hindi ka Kristiyano.” To be a Christian and to be loving should be synonymous.
Today, the Lord shows us another facet of what it is to be loving persons. The first quality of a loving person is that that person must be ready to be heroic. H is for heroic. The Lord does not only ask us to love. The Lord asks us to love and be ready to die for somebody. If you and I are still alive, it means that our love is not yet complete because we have not yet died for another. Love is only completed when we are able to give up our own lives, our breath, and our blood for love of another person. I do not even say die for a friend. I do not even say die for a person who would say “thank you” for giving our lives up for him or her.
This woman in the Gospel of St. Mark was a heroic mother. First, she was a woman. In the Hebrew culture, women are second-class citizens. Second, she was asking a favor for a girl. These two reasons right away make her an easy target of rejection. To start with, women were not supposed to talk to men. And then, girls are considered tolerable hindrances to society. So why ask the Lord to heal a girl? To top it all, this woman is a Canaanite. She was not only a Gentile; she was a Canaanite.
The people of Canaan and the people of Israel are always at odds with each other. They have always been enemies. There exists a relationship of animosity between these two peoples. So, the scenario is: here is an enemy, a woman at that, asking a favor for a girl. She was a perfect candidate with all the wrong things going for her. Yet for love, this mother dared. She dared to ask. The second quality of loving, O is for openness. I’d like to point out another quality of being open. Being open does not only mean being generous. It is not only being willing to receive, which is very often our understanding. But a person who is open is also open to be humiliated. This woman was open to the Lord. She was willing to be humiliated on account of what she was asking for. The response to vilification is not defense. The response to vilification is not reasoning out. The healing that comes after humiliation will only be through humility. If somebody humiliates us, it is not to be faced with a lawsuit; it is not to be faced with an explanation. It is not to be faced with an attack in order to humiliate our humiliator. Humiliation becomes a blessing if it is faced with humility. This woman was willing to be vulnerable. She was willing to be defenseless. The community is filled not when we are strongest. The community is filled when we are willing to be vulnerable to one another. Are we willing to expose all our faults for everyone to see? We can’t help but suspect and ask the question, “If you really knew me, would you still love me? If you really knew my woundedness, the scandals in my closet, my dark secrets, would you still love me?” That woman was trusting enough—willing to be humiliated. That was her type of openness.
H, hero. O, openness. And the last letter is E. E is for expansive. Love knows no boundaries. Love knows no limits. As St. Bernard used to say, “The greatest measure of love is to love without measure.” If we look at this word, HOE, hoe is asarol, a garden tool that is used to cultivate soil. We cannot use a hoe if we want to dig a pit. We don’t use a hoe to dig a grave. We only use a hoe in order to plant. If only we can be more heroic in loving, be more open to humiliation and face it with humility and forgiveness, and be more loving. If only we could love without boundaries and love without limit, then the soil of Christianity will be filled. The soil of Christianity will be cultivated, and we will yield good fruits, thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold.
LOVE IS THE ESSENCE
Love Like Jesus