Love and our political culture

Al Cariño, OMI
Editor: Mindanao Cross
Reproduced with Permission

Fifth Sunday of Easter

Love is one of the most abused word in the dictionary. We use it for practically everything. We say, “I love ice cream!” or “I love this game!” The very same word we use when we tell our mother or our spouse, “I love you!”

As part of His Last Supper discourse (Jn. 13:31-35), Jesus tells His disciples, “Where I go you cannot come.” But even if he departs, they can continue to be His followers and keep His spirit alive through the command He gives them: “This is how all will know that you are my disciples: if you have love for one another.” Love is not only the mark of discipleship, it is also its primary task.

Jesus Himself has given the measure of His love for His disciples which includes us: “As I have loved you.” Which is really to love without measure as He had shown on the cross when He gave His life for our redemption. His kind of love is not selective. Neither does it depend on love received. He offers it freely to everyone, i.e., no one is undeserving of it. His is a love that is all embracing, universal.

To say, “I love ice cream or this game” is a misnomer. In loving ice cream or a game, we are the subjects of love as it brings us pleasure. Love, on the other hand, has to do with, reaches out to, another person(s). The welfare and happiness of the one loved is the primary concern of the one loving. Thus love is other–centered.

Love also respects the freedom of the person loved. Jesus “walked” with His disciples for three years. All throughout, He never forced them love Him nor to accept His teachings. He let them be and progress according to each one's pace. Thus after three years, though still short of His expectations, they became different persons. Which is normal because love allows a person to continuously grow in freedom.

Finally, love requires fidelity to duty which in turn requires sacrifice. The widow who says, “I was able to send all my children through college,” truly loves and loves much. She was not only mother to her children but also their breadwinner. She worked at the two responsibilities day in and day out. Her sacrifice eventually bore fruit with her children's success which became a rich source of fulfillment and happiness for her.

In effect, when love is other–centered, respects freedom and is ready to go the distance in utmost fidelity, it builds community — in the home, neighborhood, wider community, parish and beyond — the country and even the whole world.

At the very heart of Christianity is love. Somehow, what we have said earlier has something to do with our national and local elections on Monday. To see where love stands in our political culture, it is very instructive to know what the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) says about it in its “Pastoral Exhortation on the 1998 Elections: Philippine Politics”.

Taking off from St. Paul's words, “A person will reap exactly what he plants” (Gal. 6:7), the bishops say, “We have planted seeds of political corruption; we are reaping economic and social troubles. We have allowed ourselves to be swallowed by the culture of greed for money and power; we have gotten leaders that we have deserved by our surrender to evil election practices. We have sold our future for short–term gains; our misdeeds have produced a harvest of misery, the punishment for our national sins.” Then they conclude, “If we wish upon ourselves the blessings of the Lord and peace and prosperity, we should do His will in all things, especially in politics.”

Because our political culture is characterized by corruption, greed for money and power and the selling of our future for short–term gains — all by–products of self-interest or self–centeredness — it is clear that love has not yet permeated our political culture. The name of the game remains I, me, myself and mine⁄ours and not the greater good of the most number of people.

Obviously, by electing Joseph Estrada to the presidency in 1998, we as a people failed to heed the exhortations of our bishops. To effect real change in our political culture, the bishops are asking us again to elect officials who possess competence, leadership, personal integrity and commitment to the common good. They want us to elect officials whose major concern is the welfare of the people and not their own or their families'. Officials who, like the widow who put her children through college, are willing to make sacrifices for their constituents. In short, officials who not only mouth love but put it in action.

By voting according to our conscience on Monday, by assuming responsibility for our votes before God, there is hope that our political culture may yet be permeated with love and all that it entails.