St. Paul describes love as the highest of all the gifts (1Cor 13:1-13). Its qualities include patience and kindness. It is always ready to excuse, trust, hope and endure whatever comes. We know from experience that loving in the ways that St. Paul describes is not always easy to do, but something we have to practice. In fact, just as we are not born fluent in our language, we are also not automatically learned in the art of loving for both are acquired skills. On a very deep level, though, we know that to grow in love is the better way to live our lives, for in loving we become, we grow and mature, and our spirits expand, whereas not to love means that we become small, closed off to others, to life, and to God.
We experience different types of love — affection, friendship, romantic and charity — at different points in our lives. Since love is ultimately from God, each of these four aspects of love must also come from God, and bears great fruit when God is at the center of our lives and at the heart of our relationships. Perhaps the common element in each of these aspects of love is that they are other-centered. The focus is the care, respect, dignity and tender reverence that we offer to the other person, or other people, whoever they may be.
“How did I show my love to you as my family?’ I asked everyone of them. Three of my sons sent their answers through texts, probably because they are not comfortable expressing it to me personally. Still, I was touched by their answers.
One of them replied, “You are very supportive especially in our needs. You are a caring father. You trust us and teach us to be responsible. Sometimes I am stubborn, but still you love me. Thank you for being patient with me.” “Thank you very much for your love and care especially at the time when I was so sick,” was my wife’s reply. I was really touched by their answers.
I encourage my children to be responsible and remain respectful to each other. I joke with them at times, and they do the same with me. As a father I have to be balanced: reprimand them if needed and affirm their actions if they did good.
In the season of Advent and Christmas, we are reminded that it is God who loves us first and foremost. Love is a gift from God. Therefore, we should always remember that God’s greatest gift of love was Jesus, our Savior. Jesus was born fully God and fully human, and taught us how to love by living with us on earth and setting an example.
Difficult times especially call for our love. God is asking us to be stewards of His creation; we are not here to exploit and destroy it. Jesus has taught us to love everyone, regardless of color or race. He even taught us to love our enemies. We are to welcome strangers into our homes, feed those who are hungry, clothe those who are bare, and give drinks to those who are thirsty. In trying times, Jesus especially challenges us to show His love to the vulnerable and the victims of injustices.
May we continue to share His love to our neighbors, most especially to those people whose families are deeply affected by this pandemic and other natural disasters. As Mother Theresa said, “Not all of us can do great things, but we can do small things with great love.” May we continue to radiate God’s love to everyone.
Bernie Durangparang has been working with the Columban missionaries in the Philippines since 1983, first as a working student, then in 1996 as Vocation and Mission Animator for Mindanao up to the present.