LOVE IS NOT LINEAR
Love is not linear -- you and your beloved human alone. A line is the shortest distance between two lovers but beware, it could be too short as to lock them up into an asphyxiating embrace. Have you ever isolated yourself with your special someone from the world and behave as though you're the only ones in existence? You spend hours after hours looking exclusively at each other. In this close encounter, the other looks beautiful at first glance, but as your eyes get tired from staring non-stop at one another, he/she starts appearing to you no longer as an impeccable beauty but as an annoying sight. Then, the familiarity begins to breed contempt and the initial sweet company eventually turns sour. There goes the common lot of human love -- fickle and subject to ever changing moods.
Antoine de Saint-Exepury once wrote: "Love is not so much looking at each other as much as looking at one direction". This goes to say that love is not linear but triangular and for love to be true, the apex of this triangle is God. That's why for all lovers to persevere in their love, they face the common direction: the altar (the symbol of God's presence) to consecrate their love to God.
The grace of God is participation with God's love -- the very life of God -- which injects into human love eternity. Otherwise, human love persists in its fickleness which in its worst, may lead to self-destruction -- as in one case in history, the suicide of Mark Anthony and Cleopatra; the other case in literature, the suicide of Romeo and Juliet.
We cannot rule out God from love, if we desire it to last through eternity. Only the love of God which is his life itself is eternal. The Christian who promises love to his beloved is invoking the power of God's love to support him. This is God's grace. It is free but not cheap. It is bought by Jesus' love which overcame even the direst suffering on the cross for our sake. To follow this path of God's love, we cannot rely on our plain human efforts. Otherwise, we will always compromise on the essential demands of Christianity. Mt 5:17-37 of this Sunday's Gospel Reading outlines how Christian in his love should be righteous not only outwardly but inwardly, not only in external deeds but likewise in internal disposition of the heart. Surely, this demand dwarfs our human efforts. But who told us that we can do this alone? Does not Psalm 127:1 itself state: "Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it..."?
That we constantly compromise on the demands of our Christian Faith instead of accepting at face value the loftiness of its challenge is a proof that we trust more on our human strength than in the power of God's grace. But diluting the original meaning of Christian Faith with our propensity to take the course of least resistance only speaks of the little faith that we have in the power of God's grace. But is Christianity a history of accommodation of our human weakness to our own plan of salvation or a narrative of God's grace converting our weakness into strength that restores us to the dignity which God created us to be: his own children?
Children of Grace -- that's who we really are. With God's grace, we can indeed go beyond our weaknesses.
Ash Wednesday is the beginning of the Church's narrative in liturgical action to relive what it has been proclaiming every time it celebrates the Holy Eucharist: "Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again," in short, the Paschal Mystery. The truth about our human nature is not borne completely by the fact that all of us -- including the God-man Jesus -- at one point in time will die. Facts only become true as they stand in the context of the right interpretation. Isolated and taken in itself, a fact tends to brutalize us, meaning, it is won't to wreck our understanding by looking as though it's the only thing that matters when in reality it's just a part of a greater panoramic vision. "Remember that you are dust and to dust you will return" is a moving reminder to us as ashes is imposed on our heads. The alternative formula however in the imposition of the ashes looks beyond our mortality by enjoining us to return to the Gospel. The Gospel or literally, the Good News, proclaims that there lies a bright future awaiting everyone who follows the way of Jesus. Jesus died all right but that was not the end of him. He resurrected as he had promised that he would. So, if you follow Jesus undergoing your share in his passion, you will for sure participate also in his glorious resurrection. Follow the leader and where the leader goes, there too you will finally go. In following Jesus, you too, will proclaim with him the Paschal Mystery: "With Jesus I die; with Jesus I resurrect; with Jesus, I come again."
The Lenten season is essentially a preparation for the Resurrection. Ash Wednesday does not take its ultimate meaning from Good Friday. Thank God, Good Friday is just one day and the rest is eternity reserved for Easter. What's the use of the cross without Resurrection? Ash symbolizes our mortality but like the mythical bird, the Phoenix, we fly out of the ashes and soar up to the sky. The promise that Jesus' eternal life will be ours because we have shared his mortality in good spirit brings our fasting, almsgiving, and other forms of mortification during Lent not as a concession to our masochistic tendency or a pharisaical compulsion for sanctimonious display but as a sincere expression of self-giving , in one word, love. Such love comes straight from the heart -- a veritable sacrifice. And isn't sacrifice the heart of worship?
There you have the meaning of our Lenten celebration: worship. This worship demands that we cast away all those idols which promise us the fleeting glitters of wealth, pleasure and power and instead offer our hearts to the only God who can give the ultimate meaning to our humanity. From mortality to immortality, from suffering to glorious Resurrection, from the darkest night to eternal light, Jesus leads us to our rightful destiny. So, why be disappointed with leaders in this world who cannot and do not intend to fulfill their promises? We have Jesus, the only leader who does not enchant us with false expectations.
If Jesus is our true leader, then, why don't we follow him?