What Drives You? – Ro Atilano, SJ

Luke 7:36-50, Thursday in Week 24 of Ordinary Time

What drives you? Why do you do the things that you do? What keeps you going?

It has been six months since the start of the lockdown here in our country. At the beginning, we never thought that it would last this long; at least, we did not want to believe that it would. We were still in complete disbelief. We were hoping that it would never happen in our lifetime.

As weeks turned into months, things started to sink in. With resources depleting and the number of COVID-19 cases continuing to spike, we are beginning to accept that perhaps this is not going to end soon, as we hoped and prayed. Yet we find ourselves going through with life, slowly entering into the new normal. We have to keep going. There is no other way.

It is not easy though especially during this pandemic. How can we even manage?

Yet somehow, despite all these, despite our tired souls and weary bodies, we are able to make it through. We have heard stories of teachers, even the senior ones, trying their best to translate lesson plans into virtual classrooms and the struggles they have to endure in learning online teaching. We personally know some friends who lost their jobs during this crisis and had to take menial ones in order to feed their hungry children. We have seen doctors and frontliners who risked their lives trying to heal as many patients as possible while our country’s health system is on the brink of breaking down. There are also those among us who have lost their loved ones and had to bury them soonest without the usual eulogies, hugs, and grieving rituals.

Yet again, despite our weariness, loneliness, emptiness, doubts, grieving hearts, and middle-of-the-night cries, we are able to find our inner strength in order to make it through. 

More than ever, we realized that there is indeed something within each one of us, a powerful driving force, which keeps us going no matter how difficult life may become for us.  

Fr Pedro Arrupe SJ once said, “fall in love, stay in love, and it will decide everything… What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning, what you do with your evenings, how you spend your weekends, what you read, whom you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude.”

Love is the answer. Love has always been the answer to why we do things that we do. Love is the passion and the drive to live life to the fullest. Love is the fire that burns within us that makes us give ourselves to others. Love is the courage in our hearts in times of suffering and pain. Love makes the human spirit indomitable. Love keeps us going in this life no matter how difficult it may be. According to St Robert Bellarmine, whose feast day we celebrate today: Love is a marvelous and heavenly thing. It never tires and it never thinks it has done enough!

Moreover, according to Robert Wicks, author of the book, “Touching the Holy,” while all major religions and faiths rightly expect people to help others in need, paradoxically, the real, and mysterious, challenge of the spiritual life is not primarily to give love, but to receive it. For when our hearts are alive with love, we can spontaneously love while expecting nothing in return. Pope John XXIII said many years ago, “Whoever has a heart full of love always has something to share.” In the words of our very own Fr Ramon Bautista SJ, “A heart that is full of love cannot do (sic) but love. Ang puso na puno ng pagmamahal, aapaw yan. Hayaan lang na punuin ito ng ating Diyos ng Kanyang pagmamahal hanggang sa umapaw ito para sa iba.”

Therefore, this something within each one of us, this powerful driving force, which keeps us going no matter how difficult life may become, is our experience of being loved. Only when we have experienced real love are we truly able to love; for we cannot give something that we do not have.

This is also the experience of the sinful woman whose story we heard in our Gospel today. In old Jewish religious tradition, one should stay away from sinners such as tax collectors, prostitutes, and lepers for anything that sinners got into contact to was considered defiled. Surely, the Pharisee was scandalized seeing Jesus’s feet being anointed and washed by a prostitute. But Jesus, through a parable, explained to the Pharisee, “you see, her many sins have been forgiven, and that is why she is showing great love.”

Where do you think the woman got the courage to enter the house of Pharisee knowing that she would surely be judged and perhaps even driven away? Do you think she went in to look for Jesus in order to be forgiven? No. She already knew that Jesus had forgiven and accepted her even before she entered the house. That was why she was confident even in the face of possible embarrassment and condemnation.

My dear friends, it is our experience of being loved and forgiven that drives us and gives us the courage to love, to forgive, to serve, and to make sacrifices. God loved us first. Una N’ya tayong minahal. He has already forgiven us even before we make our first step of going back home to Him. And no amount of sinfulness can ever change the way God looks at us. And so we love, we forgive, and we give ourselves because it is our immediate response to the experience of being loved and forgiven: liglig, siksiw, umaapaw.

What drives you? Why do you do the things that you do? What keeps you going during this difficult time? How do you even manage?

Pagmahahal. Ano pa nga ba? Kayang-kaya basta may nagmamahal. Babangon tayo bawat umaga upang harapin anuman ang hamon na buhay. Ayos lang. Makakaya basta may nagmamahal. Salamat po Lord sa pagmamahal at pagpapatawad. Amen.

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