Matthew 22:34-40, Friday in the 20th Week of Ordinary Time
As soon as the Uber driver knew that it was a seminarian who hopped into his car a few months ago, he started telling the Josefino his story. The Josefino told me the story from the Uber driver’s persona, so I’ll do the same with you. It was originally in Tagalog, which was more powerful. But I’ll tell it in English, with a bit of regret, to accommodate the non-Tagalog speakers among us. “You know, brother,” the driver started, “When I noticed very early that my son was effeminate, I felt very angry. I was very tough on him and scolded him whenever he was soft. And it made me even angrier that he spent his free time making little dresses out of scrap paper. Apparently, he’d draw them first, color them, then cut them out. He even made a little cardboard doll to put the dresses on! There was a time when the Piso-net was popular, and my son would spend some of his allowance to surf the net for dress designs. Then I later on found out, he was saving much of his allowance because he wanted to buy a good pair of scissors for his hobby.” The Josefino couldn’t imagine the man’s disappointment. He was a large and bulky man, very masculine, very baritone! And the distaste he must have been struggling with knowing the the child he saw as effeminate was his very own. “But you know what slowly turned me around, brother? I could not imagine how such a young child could design such beautiful paper dresses! This was talent and this was what he loved doing. There were times when I hit him out of my anger, but I started to think that when I hit him, I should avoid hurting his hands. Nasa mga kamay na ‘yon ang kanyang kinabukasan. In his hands was a promise of his bright future.” Isn’t that so beautiful? “I still struggle to accept that I have a gay son,” the father said. “But the other Christmas, I gave him a present—a Barbie. Since then, whenever I could get a few scraps of cloth here and there, I’d give it to him. You should see what wonders he does with them!”
If you were a dad and you started to notice that your only son was effeminate, and you became afraid he was gay, a hundred thou-shalt-not’s might begin to growl in your head; starting with physical thou-shalt-not’s (“Wag ka ngang babakla-bakla!”) and moral thou-shalt-not’s (“Wag kang lumaking imoral!”), then maybe, social thou-shalt-not’s (“Wag mo akong ipapahiya sa mga kumpare ko!”), and to give it the strongest kick, religious thou-shalt-not’s (“Wag kang susuway sa bibliya, lalo na sa Genesis, Adam & Eve, hindi Adam & Steve!”) You wouldn’t be lonely with your thou-shalt-not’s because there were 365 thou-shalt-not’s out of the 613 mitzvoth, precepts/rules, in the mishpatim, the subsequent laws that safeguarded the 10 commandments. Imagine 365 thou-shalt-not’s? 1-a-day, for a whole year!
But…when you start protecting your “effeminate” son’s hands from injury…then you buy him a Barbie for Christmas…and you bring home scraps of tela…and you tell your story to a total stranger…then I will have you know, if you don’t know it already, that you’re finally seeing with your heart! Because from underneath the growling thou-shalt’s & thou-shalt-not’s in your head has finally sprung the true and more encompassing spirit: love of God and love of neighbor. Jesus understood these two greatest commandments as co-extensive, not ordinal. Jesus didn’t mean to say, “Love God first, then love neighbor,” “Love yourself first, then, love the other.” No. Co-extensive, not ordinal. The two are not identical, no. But they are of equal gravity. They stand on the same ground which is love. All the commandments have as their sure foundation, love of God and love of neighbor.
Sadly, through the years, many of us you call churchmen have done this but a lip service. Many times, it really takes a loving father or a loving mother to tell us their stories…that we may be taught to stop preaching with our mouths what we haven’t really seen with our hearts.