Early this year, Fr. Dennis Paez celebrated his 60th birthday in an elegant party hosted by the Ginto Foundation. In his homily, he spoke about going to a hermitage for three days to reflect on the past 60 years of his life. No gadgets, just silence and seclusion.
In his reflection, he said what immediately came to mind were the times he was disappointed, discouraged, frustrated, betrayed, let down. He likened himself to a soccer ball being kicked around. The ball isn’t kicked to be destroyed; it is kicked only enough to get closer to its goal. The stronger the kick, the closer to the goal.
“All of us have been kicked around,” he said. But he realized that these have all been “holy kicks,” meant to make us get closer to our goal, not to destroy us.
“What is important is for us not to be the kicker. It is more important to be kind than to be right. I have learned that we need to let things go and stop fighting for things that don’t really matter. The world doesn’t need any more righteous people, it needs kinder people.”
To drive home his point, he even said, “If your loved one insists this black cloth is red, then just go with it. Is it really a battle worth fighting?”
The “marry month” of June was a good time to reflect on how we treat the people we profess to love. Familiarity breeds contempt, as they say, and we end up taking our loved ones for granted.
Having been married for eight years, my husband and I have undergone a number of changes, such that we have become so different from how we were when we got married. Values we’ve held as individuals look so different and fluid as the years pass, under the harsh view of two unpredictable people.
Every time I attend a wedding, I worry for the happy couple about to pledge their forevers to each other. So clueless, yet so beautifully naïve; we’ve been there.
Our family had just celebrated back-to-back weddings: our youngest Jay married his beloved Popo in December, while my brother JC married his darling Milky in March. Both times, Father Paez officiated the ceremony, just as he had officiated ours.
He reminded the couple, as they knelt for the ceremony, “Now, your suffering begins.” Nervous, half-meant laughter filled the room. That’s because older couples know what this kind of love means: dying to one’s self for the sake of the other.
“If something you do makes the other feel insecure or unhappy, then stop it,” Father Paez advised in his homily. “A wife needs affection; a husband needs his wife to be his best friend.”
There are other needs from both parties, but a reminder, a gentle push, nonetheless, to choose love, kindness and compassion.
In a Lenten recollection this year by Fr. Vic Apacible, we were encouraged to share the last time we were “wowed” by our spouses.
We listened to various stories from the participants, from simple to awesome, but the exercise had us look for the positive in our spouses. Oddly, society is more comfortable with the playful putdowns and sarcastic slights of our beloveds in public. Keeping things “light” is just safer, and sadly, by default, easier.
But Father Apacible also reminded us of how we can also see the word “lent.” Our loved ones, our blessings, everything we have are also just “lent” to us. We only have our spouses, our families, our lives for a while, we don’t know for how long, here on earth. They aren’t really ours. The recent disruptive spotlight cast on famous depressives taking their own lives cannot underscore this fragility enough.
Such love, kindness and compassion are translatable to all other relationships, not
necessarily marital—even nonrelationships such as between beggar and person-in-airconditioned-car-in-traffic. We are all lent to each other; what do we do with such encounters? Do we choose love or indifference?
As Father Paez often put it, “Commitment defies all logic. It is impossible without God.” Only through God’s grace can we push through righteous anger and hurt and see the silver lining in our sacrifice as true love rises to the surface. What would Jesus do? The answer is always: Choose love, regardless of how you feel. –CONTRIBUTED