John 15:9-17, Sixth Sunday in Easter
Last year, when I was at the airport, there was this very rowdy kid, maybe 9 or 10 years old. He was running around, getting up and stepping on the seats. He even mindlessly stepped over a seated lady as he jumped from one seat to the next. Beside me sat two guys also looking at the kid and shaking their heads. One guy said, “’Yang batang ‘yan, KSP.” His friend said, “Kulang sa pansin?” “Hindi. Kulang sa palo.” Then, I suddenly remembered. When we were children, kuya and I were scared of misbehaving in public like that. The few times we misbehaved in church or a restaurant or when there were visitors, as soon as we were alone, dad would say, “Halinga kayong dalawa dito.” In his hand, his chinelas. “’Di ba sinabi ko na sa inyo na huwag kayong magulo kapag nasa labas tayo?” And before we could answer: three painful whacks on the pwet, and I mean whacks. Kaya ‘di ba, yung bata tayo, nakukuha tayo sa tingin? But you know, I wasn’t traumatized by dad’s spanking. You know why? After we got whacked, dad would look us in the eye and say, “Ginagawa ko ito para hindi kayo lumaking paurong. Mahal namin kayo, kaya ayaw naming lumaki kayong parang kanto-boy, walang disiplina, walang sinasantong batas.” And I tell you today, sisters and brothers, we learned our lesson well. The chinelas was painful. It even left marks. But I know today that (a) we deserved it and (b) why dad did it: it was for our own good future. It was out of love.
Yahweh’s 10 Commandments were not meant to terrorize the Israelites. Noong unang binigay ang Sampung Utos, kagagaling lang ng mga Israelita sa 400 taong pagkaalipin sa Egypt. So, the Israelites knew what it meant to be forced into worshipping the pagan gods of Egyptians, na kapag hindi sila sumamba, sinasaktan sila, pinapatay. So they appreciated: “I am the Lord your God, you shall not have other gods besides me.” They knew what it meant to never have a day of rest. Alipin sila, walang day-off-day-off. So they appreciated: “Remember to keep holy the Sabbath day. Magpahinga kayo.” They saw their very own parents abused by Egyptian soldiers. They lost their friends to murder by slave drivers, and their wives and daughters to their masters’ lust. The soldiers wrongly accused them and framed them. So, they appreciated: “Honor your father and your mother. You shall not kill. You shall not steal or covet your neighbor’s wife and property. You shall not bear false witness.” In other words, God’s 10 Commandments were a big relief in an Israelite’s life. Divine law ended the terror. Divine law looked out for them and their own good.
“If you keep my commandments,” Jesus says today, “you will remain in my love, just as I’ve kept my Father’s commandments and remain in His love.” Paalala ‘yan ng Panginoon kung papaano natin ituturing ang utos ng Dios. When we see the Commandments, we must remember the original perspective, the original intention of God: divine love. Pero di katulad ng chinelas ng daddy, hindi hangarin ng utos ng Dios ang manakit para sumunod tayo. Hirap kasi sa ating mga Katoliko, kapag iniharap sa ‘tin ang 10 Commandments, pakiramdam natin, tinatakot tayo, sinisindak. May kinalaman kaming mga pari d’yan. Lagi kasi naming sinasabi, “Sige kayo! Kapag ‘di n’yo sinunod ang 10 Commandments, impyerno ang punta n’yo!” Impyerno agad. But divine law has so much more to do with life here and now, while we’re living together as a free and loving community. And you know what, sisters and brothers, divine law really saves us from a lot of trouble. God’s commandments regulate our relationships with each other, as well as our relationship with material things. God’s law really takes care of us—here on earth. At saka, hindi po ba, mas madaling sumunod sa isang taong alam mong minamahal ka, kaysa doon sa lagi ka na lang binabantaan, sinisindak, tinatakot, sinasaktan? Kaya mas madaling tupdin ang utos ng Dios kapag naririnig natin ang tunay niyang nagsasabi sa likod ng kanyang mga utos: “If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love. I don’t mean to threaten you with what I’ll do to you if you disobey them. That would only be slavery all over again. No; I gave you commandments because I love you. That is friendship. You are my friends. I would want us to love and respect each other because it’s the only way we will enjoy true and lasting freedom. You’ll see. Keep my commandments and you will be spared from the darkest disgrace, the worst scandal, and the worst slavery of all: interior slavery. But remain in my love and you shall remain free.”
My dear sisters and brothers, we always have a choice. God created us as free and thinking human beings who can choose to be either for God or only for ourselves. When we choose God, it’s not God who profits from our obedience. God does not need to profit from anything. He’s God, he already has everything. But who profits most from our obedience to God? We do. We do. And who suffers most from our disobedience to God? We do. But it’s not like we don’t have a choice. Because we do.
*image from the Internet