Friday, 18 October 2013

They Understand Love

I went on my first Lay Dominican retreat a few days ago in Purwokerto, Central Java. When we were on the journey back home, Selly, a participant, with whom I have made good friends, expressed her amazement that my parents were so generous and understanding as to contribute a car and a driver for the retreat (it was a long journey that took 12+ hours).

I told her that my parents aren't actually devout, and I wouldn't call it an action of understanding, because the fact is, the deeper I grow in faith, the less they understand me. I mused that although they don't understand, they must have seen my excitement about my faith (okay, my excitement about newfound crush in anything Dominican), and they get infected with it which prompts them to act accordingly.

And Selly nodded and concluded, "So they don't understand you, but they understand love."

Now this was a simple conclusion, and it could be pretty obvious to some people, but still it struck me. I couldn't help contemplating on it. Is there really a love visible in my eyes and reflected in my attitude that is so moving? How strong exactly is this love?

Pope Francis in his [in]famous interview expressed that the faithfuls "cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods". He emphasised, "The teaching of the church, for that matter, is clear and I am a son of the church, but it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time."

Poor Papa, he thus gained the lesser reputation among traditionalists. But what he said was a simple exhortation to re-focus. He was right when he said that "the church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently". Yes, because the great, ancient, divinely-inspired doctrines of the Catholic Church will be disjointed and will seem imposing when the important keystone is removed; that keystone is love.

Love speaks in its own language. The language of love is foreign to this world, beautiful to the faithful ears and foolish to the evil ones. This language is translated through joy. Joy is love's megaphone and love's messenger; joy that stems from love is constant and stubborn, unquenchable in happiness and in sorrow. Men understand joy, and hence love, better than a series of cold facts and laws.

If I had tried to convince my parents by explaining in great details the Dominican spirituality and drilling God into them, they would have thought I was involved in some kind of fanatical cult. They would have been less open and less welcoming, and I would qualify as a proselytiser. But it was obvious that in order to make them see the face of God, I didn't have to start by saying anything: I only needed to be unashamedly joyful and positively transformed by love. This, they could understand.

"If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love,
I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal."

-1 Corinthians 13:1-


Image: "The Love Letter", by Jean-Honore Fragonard, 1780.

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