At Home – Arnel Aquino, SJ

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John 14:21-26, Monday of the Fifth Week of Eastertide

Many years ago, when a small group of Jesuit batchmates gathered in a cheerful, informal reunion, one said thoughtfully: “Ngayong tumatanda na tayo, hindi naman talaga tayo nagbago. We’ve just become more at home with ourselves.” I found that interesting. I guess you could say, “Well, then that’s the change, right? To go from not being at home with yourself to being at home with yourself. So may nagbago. But then I figured, if ever we older people say that we’re now at home with who we are, well, that’s not quite the end of the story. There’s further authentication needed. A more crucial test of self-at-home-ness is the test of community; that is, do other people feel “at home” with us? I remember what my rector in graduate school said – and he was a former Provincial: “It’s not enough to ask a Jesuit if he’s happy where he is. You have to ask people around him if they are happy having him around. There’s a difference.” At totoo ‘yon, ‘di ba? Oo, masaya ka nga. Sabi mo. Pero hindi naman masaya sa ‘yo ang mga nakapaligid sa ‘yo, kasi wala kang pakialam kung nasisiyahan sila sa ‘yo o pabigat ka sa kanila. Similarly, whereas we might well be convinced we’re very much at home with ourselves, but if hardly anyone feels “at home” the moment we show up, and even wish we had stayed back home…then there’s a lie somewhere, isn’t there?

In my experience as both a Jesuit in formation and formator, here are a few of many behaviors which reveal that someone isn’t really at home with him/herself – and therefore, that people around them might not actually feel at home with him/her. Egomania is first on the list; having a huge, self-referencing, self-promoting ego, the “walking selfie,” as I call it. Second, when a person deals with adversity by either of only two ways: passive aggression (silent treatment, parinig, chismis) or meltdown (nagdadabog, naninigaw, nagwawala), what I’d call “having a limited social vocabulary.” A third sign of self-dis-ease is when a person is better known to easily dislike people than to like them. Worse, the person mocks them to get others on his/her side. That’s the divisive personality, the “pseudo-hero”. And the last of many signs I’ve noticed of not being at home with oneself is the “denial queen”, the person who obstinately denies one’s sexual orientation. But to conceal the paralyzing fear of discovery, the person uses an artifice of power and anger to quash any suspicion.

“Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home in them,” the Lord says today. I have absolutely no doubt that even if we don’t feel at home with who we are, the Lord feels perfectly at home in us anyway. God’s not very choosy about whom he will dwell within. He’s God. Insecurity is totally alien to him. So, on God’s side, he dwells in both those who feel at home with themselves as well as those who don’t.

The difference, though, is that it’s so much easier to see and feel God in people who are comfortable in their own skin. I know you know people like this—there’s a cheerful meekness about them, they laugh at themselves more than at other people, they’re not defensive about their lapses, or priggish when they’re right. They’re empathetic and they love being around people. Contrariwise, it’s very hard to see and feel God in an egomaniac, a passive-aggressive or histrionic, a pseudo-hero, or in an angry closeted power monger. But see, when we resort to this ugliness, that’s probably because we don’t believe that God could ever love the ‘ugly’ we feel we are. Like I always say, ang hirap pa naman sa pangit na masungit, lalong pumapangit! On the other hand, people who have a mature sense of self-comfort, they rely fully on God’s deep love of them precisely because they know and accept they’re quite flawed. People who are at home with themselves like that become loving people. And that, I think, the most authentic sign of self-at-homeness: being loving; the deepest sign of God’s indwelling.

I love our Tagalog word for “home”: tahanan—which comes from the word, tahan, to stop crying. When God makes a home in us, then we stop whining over our ugliness which we take out on others by being ugly to them. In other words, when God makes a home in us, tumatahan tayo, we stop crying—so that we could see more clearly through our tears the face of the other.

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