Valentine’s Day in its genuine significance and sound implications is but a mere concrete expression of the commandment of love. Love is not an option. It is mandatory upon all. Nevertheless, the reality of love becomes more felt and expressed between a man and a woman. It is in this context that Valentine’s Day acquires its special significance and relevance.
Truth to say, the commandment of love is the flagship of Christianity. It finds its categorical reality in the composite mandate of love of God and love of neighbor. Neither simply one nor purely the other—but both. It is in Christ that divinity and humanity find their convergence. He is thus the incarnate testimony of the imperative of loving God and of loving neighbor.
The truth is that it is either delusion or danger to separate God from man, to divorce man from God. It is delusional for someone to exclusively focus on God with utter disregard for neighbor. This is divinism—a futile verticalism, a pitiful spiritualism. But is dangerous as well to give exclusive attention to neighbor with deliberate dismissal of God. This is humanism—a false horizontalism, a deceptive temporalism.
There is one disturbing reality even in this commonly considered Christian country in Asia. It has something to do with the abbreviated understanding of love of neighbor. A good number of Filipino Christians equate love of neighbor with but feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, sheltering the homeless. This is good and this is love of neighbor. But these charitable acts do not exhaust the context of loving neighbor.
One’s neighbor is not simply a stomach to feed, a body to clothe, a head to shelter. The fact is that people do all these even to their pet animals. In other words, loving one’s neighbor means food, shelter and clothing—but definitely not only these. Human beings are very much more than their corporal constitution.
That is why love of neighbor necessarily includes promoting human life, protecting human dignity, defending human rights. While one’s neighbor needs food, clothing and shelter, he or she also requires, as a matter of course, attention to his or her dignified human life with respected human rights.
And this is where a marked difficulty comes to fore. It is rather easy and even pleasant to give food, clothes and shelters. It is hard and even dangerous to go further: promotion of human life, protection of human dignity, defense of human rights. Sad but true, this department has few patrons.
13 February 2007