11 February 2007: The 6th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Luke 6, 17, 20-26: Beatitudes and Love
The Homily for the Student’s Valentines Mass
Let us make some statements. First, the beatitudes were exclamatory sentences: The beatitudes were written in Greek, but spoken in Aramaic. And in Aramaic, they have a common expression, which is exclamatory. For example, Psalm 1, 1: “O the blessedness of the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly.” There is no verb: no is, no are. Like the exclamations we say to a graduate: Congratulations! Why is this important: because it tells us of a time element, the present moment, the present form. Thus, the beatitudes is not about a future happiness, a pious hope of what shall be. They are a congratulations of what is present, here and now! Thus, the fulfillment of the beatitudes is in the present time. Thus, it is attainable today.
Second, the word blessed is a special word. In Greek, it is makarios, and it is used to describe the gods. Let see how makarios is used. The Greeks called Cyprus, hē makaria (feminine form of the adjective), meaning, the Happy Isle. The Greeks like Cyprus, because it was so lovely, so rich, so fertile, full of flowers, trees, fruits, and the climate is just wonderful. All of these were materials for perfect happiness! Thus makarios describes that joy which has its secret within itself, a joy that is untouchable and serene, and self-contained, independent of all the chances and changes in life. This is the Christian joy!
On the other hand, in English, happiness tells us what it is: it has as its root, hap, which means chance. Thus, human happiness is something that is dependent on chances, the changes in life, something which life may give or destroy.
Thus, the Christian joy is the joy that cannot be touched by our pains, sorrow, loss, grief, disappointments, helplessness, anger. It is the joy that is deeper than the ebbs and tides of life: a change is one’s fortune, a collapse in one’s health, the failure of a plan, the disappointment of an ambition, even the change in weather and of feeling. Sometimes, there is no feeling: we are just settled and sure. The Christian blessedness, there is permanent and unchanging. It is what many of us seek.
It is no wonder that couples in marriage vow to each other: Grant us, O Lord, to be one heart and soul, from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death. Christian love and joy are the same. It cannot be touched by chance or change: better or worse, in crisis or not, in sickness or in health. This is the love of Christ for the Church, in which, every couple must emulate and mirror. Christ’s love is faithful to us. It is unchangeable and overflowing. It is not withdrawn when we are unfaithful; when we do not pray; when we sin; when we become terrible. Believe it or not, the worse sinner still has Christ’s love.
Thus, each couple, whether mag-asawa o magkasintahan, reminds all of us — including those who do not have partners, whether by choice or by chance — that love is still alive. However, it has with it a responsibility. In the marriage rite, the parents and the principal sponsors primarily and the couple’s friends promise: “We express our support and love, vow to counsel them in times of their need and difficulties, remind them of their responsibility of sharing themselves to others, and to mirror to them through our lives, the virtues of responsible marriage.”
I would like to make this bold statement: we cannot prevent our sons and daughters, even how young, from falling in love. But we can help them maintain their relationships, so that they are able to learn. We do not want them to be learning the primary stages of trust when they are already committed. Often, even as high school campus minister, I find myself giving some counseling sessions when they quarrel or when they break-up. At an early stage, we should help and counsel them, so that when they finally tie the knot, they know how to keep the marriage going. We teach them the permanent character of Christian love. I met this woman in a NISMED mass in UP. She told me, that her husband died and that she disagrees with the vow formula in the marriage rite. She said, “Death has no bearing on my love for my husband. I will continue to love him even after death.”