‘Direk’ Marilou Abaya and freedom | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

When we were seminarians in the mid-’80s, Fr. Roque Ferriols, SJ, told us in our Philosophy class that the Filipino translation of Ignatius of Loyola’s “Take and Receive” was inaccurate. The final line of the prayer goes, “Give me only your love and your grace, these make me rich, I ask for nothing more.”


The Filipino translation is, “Ipagkaloob mo lamang ang pag-ibig mo at lahat tatalikdan ko.” He took issue with the word tatalikdan, to turn one’s back to or to refuse.


Father Ferriols told us that the spirit of Ignatius was one of indifference. I clearly remember the example he gave. “Paano kung gusto ng Diyos na maging mayaman ka at makapangyarihan at sa pamamagitan nito ay paglingkuran siya?” (What if God wills you to be rich and powerful and through this serve him?)


Passionate manner


It was a distinction that I’ve always remembered. Part of the impact was the passionate manner Father Ferriols critiqued the translation. In the end, the power of his argument was in the feeling you got that here was a man who was totally given to his relationship with God.


This Sunday’s Gospel about the rich young man highlights these great virtues of indifference and detachment. In the Gospel, you had the rich young man who presumably was a good and upright person. He did everything that was required. Clearly what motivated him was to attain eternal life, to be saved.


Just when he thought he would get the proper validation and endorsement from this great teacher, Christ, he was back to square one. After declaring, “Teacher, all of these, I have observed from my youth,” Christ tells him, “You are lacking in one thing. Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.”


As the story tells us, “his face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.”


Here lies the heart of the matter. The rich young man’s “sin” was not his wealth. It was not his lack of zeal in doing the “requirements” or the “obligations” of the law. If you think about it, he wanted to do more. This was the very reason he went to Christ.


The source of his “sin” was deeper.


This rich young man is the perfect example for many of us. If we really think about it, most of the choices we make are not so much between what is good and bad, or to give it greater shock value, what is evil.


Most of the choices we mull over are between two goods and the desire that “disturbs” is seeking what is better or, again for greater dramatic effect, what is the greater good.


The rich young man doing things for compliance shows us that he missed the heart of the matter, as many of us do. It was not that compliance was wrong. It was needed, but was not enough.


It was not that desiring to be saved was wrong. It was the goal, but one had to aim for it for the right reason or reasons.


Small things


The exchange between Christ and the rich man gives us the answer. In the small things, we find the clues that lead us to the heart of the matter.


At the end of the conversation, Christ reveals what really matters: “…Come, follow me.” This is the only thing that matters, our relationship with Christ.


In the Ignatian spirit, our relationship with Christ is in the knowing—“that I may see (or know) you more clearly”—and in the loving, “that I may love you more dearly.” And Ignatius also says, “love is best expressed in deeds.”


This leads us to the final and most important manifestation of our relationship with Christ—“that I may follow you more nearly.”


This is the heart of the matter, to follow Christ more nearly. This is the reason for the indifference and detachment. There is a level and depth of freedom we need to follow Christ more nearly.


When Christ asked the rich young man—as he also asks us time and again in our daily encounters with him—to sell everything he had, it was not a critique of riches. It was a reminder that we, in the words of Ignatius, must not have inordinate attachments.


We must be indifferent to all things so that we can see clearly God’s will and God’s presence in all things.


To be detached and to be indifferent is to be free so that there is only one thing that matters, to follow Christ.


True freedom is when we can commit our self to God, to others, to our mission, to a cause. Yet even in this, we realize the commitment is to God, to follow Christ and everything else follows.


Stories like this of the rich young man remind us in a very dramatic but also heartwarming way that, in the words of Theresa of Avila, “Dios solo basta—God alone suffices.”


Sometimes in our pursuit of things, in our quest for what is noble and needed, the rush to meet deadlines, we forget the heart of the matter.


“Come, follow me,” this will always be the heart of the matter.


Brilliant simplicity


The other night I attended the tribute of ABS-CBN for director Marilou Diaz-Abaya. I had the privilege of knowing direk Marilou. Her two sons, Marc and David, were students when I was principal in the mid- to late ’90s.


Direk Marilou and I met very early in 2000 when I was appointed to help prepare for the 150th anniversary of Ateneo de Manila in 2009. I had asked her to come up with a film about Ateneo to mark its sesquicentennial. Her idea was brilliant in its simplicity as a narrative that would bring out the humanity and grace in what we were commemorating.


There are two main points  I want to share in what was said about her. One was what several people said about her being a spiritual person and how even when she was diagnosed of  cancer years ago, she turned even more spiritual.


The second was what direk Olive Lamasan narrated. When “Inang,” as Direk Olive is fondly called, was starting as director, Direk Marilou was her mentor.  Direk told her, “Olive, speak from your heart. Let your heart tell the story.”


This speaks volumes of Direk Marilou, of how she has become detached and indifferent. I never really got to ask her “the secret,” but I am sure it was because of the freedom she had to follow Christ. She found Christ in her craft and artistry, the great storyteller, teacher, mentor, wife, mother, sister and friend that she was.


Direk Marilou is the perfect example of what Father Ferriols said. What matters is placing God at the center of it all—“Give me only your love and your grace…” God may give us riches and power to follow him and what matters is the following; to use all our gifts and blessings to follow Christ.


There is a final detail in the story in today’s Gospel. After the rich young man tells Christ he had complied with all the requirements, the story says, “Jesus looked at him and loved him…”


It also reminds us that no matter where we are in our journey, in following him, no matter how well we fare or fail, Christ will look at us and love us always.



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