Sunday, January 28, 2007

Hope, faith, and politcal act of love

I was thinking of St. Paul when my entry on Feb. 28, 2006, critiquing former president Fidel V. Ramos’ Manila Bulletin column, was titled “Holy coup: for a mission of love”. There I wrote:
What the still tentative People Power practitioners hope to see in the last analysis, after two People Power revolutions, is not just another “personnel” or “regime” change but a rejection of the “system in place” that has sustained [in the words of Ramos] “throughout history” the “unholy alliance” and “perverse symbiosis” of the “wealthy, powerful, and politically entrenched families” forming the “durable oligarchy.” As a result of this alliance and symbiosis, it should be pointed out, more than two thirds of the 85 million Filipinos live in “humiliation, powerlessness and brutal hardship,” to borrow some compelling words from UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. A mere constitutional amendment is unlikely to alter the situation of the Filipino poor, perhaps not during FVR’s or our lifetime.

The Filipinos would be ready to challenge whatever myth there is that surrounds a borrowed constitutional order when the iceberg of mistrust among the collaborating actors is allowed to be broken. And if and when the time comes a Baynihan Pact uniquely Filipino is ready to be forged, it behooves the representatives to be faithful to the represented and to listen too to those who may not be the nearest and the loudest because “all human beings are created equal,” to use the political judgment or rhetoric of our colonial masters whom FVR at times hearkens to.

Lastly, to ensure the success of the systemic and paradigmatic change hoped for will require some self-abnegating mission, nay, a political act of love ranging from one end of the political spectrum to the other (i.e., from the Left, through the Center to the Right) instead of the persistent desire for ideological triumphalism from all sides. This collaboration, or holy alliance, if you will, could be the antithesis of the unholy one FVR has appropriately and correctly identified.
My entry today in another blog is a direct interpretation of the relevant portion of St. Paul’s letter, which inspired the above post. The new entry is quoted below in toto:
I was the second reader at the Sunday mass today and my assignment was to read 1 Corinthians 12:31-13:13 where Paul has defined love by certain enumeration.

Paul in his letter, while first placing love alongside with two other spiritual gifts, faith and hope, has raised love to an even higher level, that of being the greatest of the three. The same triad has been contrasted to the Corinthians’ most desired possession: prophecy, tongues, and knowledge. Paul then has postulated that the highest virtue for the Corinthians to aspire for is love, which is an act of charity for others.

The ability to prophesy and comprehend mysteries or fathom the depth of knowledge is an extraordinary gift. So is the charisma of speaking by the spirit of God (or the gift of tongue or ecstatic phenomenon). According to Paul, these abilities are nothing without love.

Paul has gone boldly further, asserting that philanthropy, even martyrdom (the giving of one’s life or self-sacrifice), could also be meaningless if the giver is not informed by love.

Indeed giving to the needy would be meritorious by itself yet to Paul if done not for love, it is still nothing. For, giving may still be motivated by guilt, for example, or by all kinds of self-righteousness, or pride.

When Paul wrote his letter, the early Christian community that he had founded at Corinth was in disharmony, riven by factionalism. To appeal for unity Paul has relied on the gift of love as a unifying force rather than the gifts of tongue, knowledge or prophecy. In today’s parlance, couldn’t these apparently subordinate abilities also take the form of demagogy, smarts or punditry?

The word actually used by Paul for love is the Greek agape, or in Latin caritas, from which the English “charity” is derived. All other virtues are inspired by charity according to Catholic teaching.

So, what is the way of agape?

“Love is patient, love is kind.
it is not jealous, it is not pompous,
it is not inflated, it is not rude,
it does not seek its own interests,
it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury,
it does not rejoice over wrongdoing
but rejoices with the truth.”

Charity is love for others, corresponding to God’s love for humankind.