The Price and Prize of Love
Having been raised by the typical religious Filipino family, I spent all fifteen years on earth with a ‘Holy Week’ label on our April calendar. Like what most Catholics do, we go to church, repent, grieve, and look forward to easter where we welcome the risen Lord instead of hunting colorful eggs in the backyard. We are again and again reminded of the passion of Christ, His seven last words, the fourteen stations of the cross. Priests and elders speak of His undying love that brought Him to death, of salvation and of renewing ourselves at the dawn break of Sunday while people listen, listen and listen without, sadly, making a difference.
It’s an obvious fact that people get used to all these activities that they become merely a celebration of an age-old tradition instead of a serene week of self-reflection. As I go to church and walk the way of the cross, I wonder, how many of these people would not deny Him until a cock’s crow marks the break of dawn? How many actually cringe at every whip on the Lord’s back? How many walk bloodied steps to wipe His face? How many of them welcome Mary into their arms as Jesus entrusts her to be our mother at the point of His death? How many would believe that He has risen, without touching the wounds of His palms?
That number wouldn’t matter. We are no saints; I understand that somehow people find it hard to completely offer a moment to the Lord and accept His life into their own, even for a week. I am guilty of that. Yes we study, we remember, we enlive Christ’s every step from the supper table to Calvary. But God is not going to test us on how much we know about His life; He will merely watch what we’ve done with ours. Holy Week is a perfect time to be one with Him, as we remember the extent of His love. This is the exact meaning of acknowledging the passion of Christ: to let love dominate. He didn’t love us for us to love Him, but rather for us to be the concrete living image of His love to others.
I’ve read and heard love stories – quite a lot, actually. They say that love is bliss but causes grief, love is worth fighting for but true love lets go. Love brings out the best but provokes the worst. There’s always a ‘but’ as a consequence of love. Well I say that love is perfection by its pure self. Love is love, no synonym, no antonym. Love is always and forever good; it will never cause evil. It is when love’s selflessness is lost that love is overpowered by emotional greed. This has always been my concept of love. I hate it when I hear stories of people who are in love but are hesitant to fight for it, as if love alone is not worth defending nor is it a worthy defendant. I hate it when people say that love is not enough. If it’s not enough, it’s not love but merely a lovely cowardice.
If there was something new I learned this time, it’s that love means pain. True, people love because love itself is happiness. But when we begin to embrace and accept pain, it’s true love – one that almost resembles Divine Love. The best thing that Christ on the cross proves is that love will not always be easy. Love means pain, love may cost a life, but it is always worth it. Love is always worth the fight. We may not be gaining anything for yourself, but we will be giving everything to somebody. To love is a right, a privilege, and a duty. Jesus died for love so we could live to love. Let’s not waste it by underestimating how much it can do. In the first place, love saved and changed the world.
Again, love is love. The price? Pain. The prize? Love! Yes, pain makes love genuine. And the only thing you gain from love, is love itself. As Paulo Coelho said, love is. No words can describe it. Because love itself is worthy of everything. If you find this nonsensical, don’t complain. That simply means, you still don’t know love. One day when it comes, everything will make sense and the rest of the world will make you understand it.
This Holy Week, let us not dwell on the concrete examples of faith. By concrete I mean the things we have grown accustomed to, so much that we fail to reflect on the reason why Jesus is still nailed on the cross on our Catholic altars despite the fact that He rose from the dead a long long time ago. Yes, we Catholics value the image of the suffering Christ. It is because, I believe, Jesus on the cross is the best reminder that love will not always be easy. Love may take a huge price, but the prize will always be worth it. So don’t hesitate to love because you fear pain, for love means pain, and pain is what tells us we’re alive.