How to Start a New Life with Joy and with Love


14 February 2010: The 6th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Jeremiah 17, 5-8; Psalm 1; 1 Cor 15, 12-20; Luke 6, 17, 20-26

Let me first wish all of you a happy day of love and joy on Valentines Day and the Chinese New Year! Kung Hei Fat Choi!
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! So, why is this important? Because it tells us of a time element, the present moment, the present form. Thus, the beatitudes are not about a future happiness, a pious hope of what will be. They are a congratulations of what is present, here and now! Thus, the fulfillment of the beatitudes is in the present time: it is indeed 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 calls Cyprus, hē makaria (feminine form of the adjective), meaning, The Happy Isle. The Greeks like Cyprus, because it is so lovely, so rich, so fertile, full of flowers, trees, fruits, and the climate is just wonderful. All of these are materials for perfect happiness! Therefore, makarios describes that joy which has its secret within itself, a joy that is untouchable, serene, and self-contained; independent of all the chances and changes in life. This is 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, or on something which life may give or destroy.

Therefore, Christian joy is the joy that cannot be touched by our pains, sorrows, losses, griefs, disappointments, helplessness, or anger. It is the joy that is deeper than the ebbs and tides of life: a change in 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. In Christian blessedness, there is permanency and peacefulness. This 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. This is the love of Christ for the Church, in which, every couple must emulate and mirror. Christ’s love is faithful and steadfast 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, principal sponsors, and their friends promise to the couple: “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. When I was high school campus minister, I found myself giving some counseling sessions when they quarreled or when they were about to break-up. At an early stage, we should help and counsel our young, so that when they finally tie the knot, they will know how to keep the marriage going. We teach them the permanent character of Christian love and joy.

I met this woman in a mass in UP-NISMED (University of the Philippines’ National Institution for Science and Mathematics Education Development). 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.”

My wish to all of you today on Valentines and the first day in the Year of the Tiger: a good start and a beautiful heart.

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