Matthew 22:34-40, 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Every time I have the opportunity to come home to Loyola Heights in Quezon City, I am amazed at how the activity in the area has changed so much all these years. It was just a four-lane road when I began my studies at the Ateneo in 1978. One can count the establishments around it. Residences were still facing the university. The rhythm of life was a bit slower. The environment was also a little bit more peaceful then.
Now, it has turned into an avenue which has more than doubled its size. Community activity has grown as the area also has expanded to become more of a commercial zone. Residents have moved inwards as businesses have sprouted all over. The present time has been very much a witness to its busy-ness.
Yet despite all these, one can see a moment of “freshness deep down things.” One can see glimpses of how the living community has tried to find a balance in the busy pace of day to day. One thing in particular that I take note of is the gentle reminder that I saw written at the back of the red t-shirts of the tricycle drivers who ply the route. The words say, “Diyos, Bayan, Pamilya, Barkada, Sarili.” (God, Country, Family, Friends, Self.)
These five words talk a lot of the value of keeping the important relationships that we have in life. It serves as a guide that directs us when we lose our way. It is also very much connected to the Gospel readings that we have today as Christ reminds us of the Two Great Commandments: To love God with all of one’s heart, soul, and mind; and to love one’s neighbor as one’s self.
It is always important to be aware that there will always be three main parties to consider: God, others, and self. Can we live focusing just on one without considering the other? If we want to follow God’s commandments, excluding one will be an inauthentic following of Jesus.
If one does not love God with all of one’s mind, heart and soul, why does one follow God in the first place? We may sometimes miss at this area from time to time in our lives, but there is always the invitation to come back to God, as God cannot be outdone in mercy and love. If there is such a thing as a “change of heart,” and a “change of mind,” can we also consider a “change of soul” so that we can even more direct our ways toward the Almighty?
If one says that one loves God but hates brother or sister, then one is a liar (1 John 4:20). The tricycle drivers have expressed this clearly in the words, “Bayan, Pamilya, Barkada.”
And in this present time and present place, there are a lot of moments when we find ourselves falling into the trap of hate. Acts of injustice, hateful words, and hurtful actions, have brought about a false sense of the potential of who we are to become. We have turned our backs around who we really are – the image and likeness of God!
University of San Francisco president, Paul J. Fitzgerald, SJ gives encouraging words for these challenging times: “First, guard against the ever-present temptation of becoming numb to the suffering and pain, and loss around us…Second, we must pay attention to and draw strength from the inspiring work taking place all around us.” In following Christ, we may have to look beyond our comfort zones and engage the environment around us. In trying to be like Christ, it would also help us to stay positive as we search and follow good role models in our community that we even sometimes take for granted – just like the tricycle drivers of Loyola Heights!
If one loves God and neighbor, but has a disdain of one’s self, then who will follow the commandments? How can we love our neighbor if we are not able to be kind to ourselves? It is not selfish to practice self-care. It enables us to give more of our selves as a result. Even if one finds weaknesses and faults in one’s self there is a continued call to rise up and redefine one’s being to DO good and BE good. Unceasing prayer helps as it connects us to God. Generous reflective action adds to this as it brings about more potential for self-giving.
In the end, the relationships that we nurture lead us closer to our salvation. This is the wonderful reality that is revealed to us in the Good News of today. I will always appreciate those who wear the red shirts with the five words written on them: “Diyos, Bayan, Pamilya, Barkada, Sarili.” I will also be most grateful to people who value these though their concrete actions which meaningfully speak louder.
*from God’s Word Today, Philippine Star