Define love

Published February 23, 2021, 12:55 AM

by Fr. Alfonso A. Araceli, SVD

Fr. Alfonso A. Araceli, SVD

For those belonging to my generation, it is easy to define love because of the tool we used to have then – the slum book.  Already considered to be a thing of the past, the millennials and Generation Z may just inquire from their elders in the family, what this sort of thing is.  In that slum book, there is a space that asks, “What is Love?”  And one may just write according to his/her own definition or something copied from somewhere.   Maybe at this time, one can be more articulate with his/her definition of love.  There can be information overload about this, complete with accompanying  graphic symbols that accompanies it.  Indeed, to define love is complicated!

Considered as the “love” month, February is assumed to be such a perfect and romantic time for everyone.  Loving per se is not bound to a particular month, but this month is special for someone who wishes to express his/her love for another, and it should start with the self. This may sound selfish because isn’t it that there is always an object of our love outside of ourselves?  Still it is important that we should love ourselves before we can love another person.  You cannot fully express love when you have not experienced it yourself and you have not given it to yourself.

The best place for us to experience love is in the family where we are born.  We may not have fully understood this aspect, but for sure, we were born in a family  capable of loving.  The Family Code of the Philippines describes family relations as between husband and wife; between parents and children; among other ascendants and descendants; and among brothers and sisters, whether of full or half-blood (Art. 150, Executive Order No. 209).  We stick to this description so that we can clearly understand that the term “family” is really encompassing.

The way we should show our love in the family is also well described in the Scriptures.  The Book of Sirach proclaims: “Children, pay heed to a father’s right; do so that you may live. He who honors his father atones for sins; he stores up riches who reveres his mother.  He who honors his father is gladdened by children, and when he prays he is heard. He who reveres his father will live a long life; he obeys the Lord who brings comfort to his mother” (3:1,3-6).  We need not go to other scholarly sources to be reminded about the call and need for love in the family and among family members.

The moment we step out of the confines of the household and the family, we look beyond us and see the place where we belong and that is our very own country.  As Filipino citizens, we are very much compelled to express love for our lupang sinilangan.  The Philippines is such a beautiful country, and yet the way we treat it, as if we do not love our country at all.  Take for example, the way we elect our leaders, it do not discern well whom to elect.  We just elect people who have memorable antics during the campaign period.  Thus, we end up with a kind of public service that is not only entertaining but “laughable” as well.  Gone are the days when those who were elected to public office were the cream of the crop as far as governance and leadership are concerned.

Election time is fast approaching.  Let us all be reminded to be discerning on who to place in key positions in government so that public service will not be reduced to  mediocrity.  The Philippine Constitution reminds us about the duties and obligations of the citizens, thus, to be loyal to the republic; to defend the state; to contribute to the development and welfare of the state; to uphold the Constitution and obey the laws; to cooperate and obey the duly constituted authorities; to exercise rights responsibly and with regard to the rights of others; to engage in gainful work; and to register and vote (Ramirez, 1993).  With all these enumerated in the checklist as a citizen, we will not be in the wrong path walking in this part of the world, but at the same time we show our genuine love for our country.

That is as far as the parochial is concerned. What if we consider also the totality of our existence.  How do we show our love for the Earth which Pope Francis in his encyclical Laudato Si’ calls “Our Common Home.”  How do we care for the Earth?  There have been attempts by a lot of people to exercise love for creation, but most importantly it must start from the self.  We are all aware that the earth is such a beautiful place to live in.  St. Francis of Assisi describes it as like “a sister with whom we share our life, and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace.”  But with the passage of time this earth has become the center of abuse by humanity.  As Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI writes, “the deterioration of nature is closely connected to the culture which shapes human existence and that the natural environment has been gravely damaged by our irresponsible behaviour.”  Along this thought and centuries earlier, St. Francis of Assisi said: “This sister now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the good which God has endowed her.”

With these reality at hand, and if we want to show that we still love our common home, it is now high time for us to inculcate in our mind Pope Francis’ idea of “ecological citizenship.”  These things are not strange and new to us, such as avoiding the use of plastic and paper, reducing water consumption, separating refuse, cooking only what can reasonably be consumed, showing care for other living beings, using public transport or carpooling, planting trees, turning off unnecessary lights, or any number of other practices (Laudato Si’, 211).  Thus, ecological education takes place in a lot of settings: at school, in families, in the media, in catechesis and elsewhere (Laudato Si’, 213).

Now, we have more depth and dimension to our definition of love which may be more difficult to contain in that small space in the slum book!