Loving in Difficult Times
30th Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)

Antonio P. Pueyo
Reproduced with Permission

The Darwinian theory speaks of the survival of the fittest. Those who can cope with changing environmental conditions are the ones who thrive. That explains why cockroaches have been in this planet for millions of years. Crocodiles too. I came up with the theory that in order to survive one must be able to hide in holes or must have a very thick hide. One can avoid threats or wear an armor. I do not know if palaeontologists would agree with my theory. These are just thoughts that come to mind with the global economic crisis. Shall we live by the law of the jungle and fight off every perceived threat? Or shall we isolate ourselves and hide in our caves? Can one be loving in times of difficulties?

The fallout from the global financial crisis is being felt in different degrees by different nations. There are speculations that with the economic recession there will be less economic activities and therefore less jobs. This would certainly affect our overseas workers who may have to come home or accept lower pay. Remittances from abroad would be lesser. If during “good times” there were not enough jobs in the country, how about during worst times? Almost every Filipino family circle has a relative working abroad. We are in for tough times.

Action starter: Whom are you helping?

Is there a place for tenderness in tough times? Or is it that “when the going gets tough, only the tough gets going?”

It is not just the economic crisis. We also have to deal with the effects of war and flood in our area of the country. We might say, enough. We do not want to hear more. However, reality confronts us, no matter how we try not to think of it. And so we are back to the question, “Can one love in times of crisis?”

This Sunday’s readings speak of what our Christian attitude should be. The first reading counsels us not to take advantage of the defenseles and the marginalized, “You shall not oppress an alien.You shall not wrong any widow or orphan” (Ex. 22:20 ff.). One should not extort exorbitant interests from a suffering neighbor. In the Gospel, Jesus brought in a new teaching by putting on the same level the commandments to love of God and neighbor (Mt. 22:34 ff.). Rabbinical discourse would classify the 613 precepts of Jewish law into what is more important that others. While some teachers would speak of the love of God as “weightier” and love of neighbor as “lighter”, Jesus said, “the second is like it”. To love God is to love one’s neighbor. One cannot claim to love God and not care for others.

Clearly tough times do not only demand toughness. Tough times demand tenderness and compassion. There are the times to demonstrate love. Love here is understood not just as a feeling or a sentiment but as acting for the good of the other.

An enemy of love during these times is opportunism. Opportunism is taking advantage of the misery of others. I recall a lesson in world history where I first met the word “carpetbagger”. Carpetbaggers were opportunists who came to the South after the American Civil War when the South was in ruins. They only owned their carpetbags when they arrived. Eventually, they thrived politically and became rich by taking advantage of the

devastation brought by the war. They made use of their connections to establish themselves in power, even when they were outsiders.

Opportunism can take up many forms. One can make use of the adverse conditions to buy out properties of victims or take out interest in loans at exorbitant rates. Hoarding and selling at huge profits is another opportunist act. It can even take the form of human trafficking, when people are taken advantage of, especially the young, who risk selling their bodies and their freedom just to survive.

These are tough times. When the going gets tough, love keeps going.