THE POWER OF TWO OR THREE (PLUS ONE)!
23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)
September 4, 2011
A lot of neonatal studies (research done on newly born babies) has shown that bonding with a primary caregiver, usually the biological mother, seals the future emotional well-being of the child in many and far-ranging ways. Emotional deficits happen where bonding does not take place at the right time, in the right doses, as it were.
Other studies show just how much more powerful and solid that bonding is when both biological parents are there for the child, physically and psychologically. Two makes for a powerful pair. But everyone knows this is not just a matter of putting one and one together to make two. It has to do with what goes on between those two, what transpires between those individuals, and what type and depth of bonding ensues between father and mother. Two may make a formidable pair, but love between the two, that is shared with the child is ultimately what seals the child’s future adjustment in life and in society.
At the end, though, it all boils down to love. “Object Relations” psychologists say, pretty much the same thing. The bonding, the relationship with a significant other, at times represented by an “object representation” all can be reduced to a loving and secure relationship with an “object” who has a certain reliability and “permanence.”
We know all too well how “impermanent” things are in our times. “There is no lasting city here on earth,” as the good book tells us. Relationships now don’t last a lifetime, despite the unending and undying promises made during weddings all over the world. As things are right now, it almost seems like promises are made to be broken, and that unions between two people, eventually end up in aloneness, and, many a time, bitter loneliness, or protracted court battles for custody and subsidy.
I would like to think that, among other things, today’s liturgy would have us meditate, not only on the power of two, (or three), but on the power of three plus one essential element that makes contracts between individuals more than just an agreement, but a commitment.
And that plus factor is not a person, not a thing, not something tangible and measurable, but a virtue – the virtue of charity, love, that more than just “makes the world go round.”
Let me tell you what it does. First, it makes individuals “watchmen” who lovingly tell the truth like it is, for the sake of the erring individuals. Like in the case of Ezekiel, love can make us help others find their way back before tragedy sets in. “You, son of man, I have appointed you watchman for the house of Israel.” This, Ezekiel did, with commitment to God’s people.
Second, it can make us do only good and avoid evil. In our highly monetized economy and culture, we owe a lot of money to individuals and institutions. Everybody is on credit basis to somebody else. Many of my readers are still paying off their houses, their cars, and other things they “possess” sort of. St. Paul has a wise advice for us all: to “owe no one anything except love.” For it is love that, according to Paul, sums up all the other commandments – the reason why we all should try to avoid adultery, killing, coveting others’ goods, etc. Love, he says, is the fulfilling of the law.
But there is one more important thing that love does to us. It makes us go the extra mile and forgive an erring brother or sister. This is akin to Hercules’ “going the distance” in order to fulfill his quest of being a “true hero.”
But quite unlike Hercules, our quest to become true heroes is not done singly, individually, and all by our lonesome selves. Christ Himself shows us the formula. He does not say, where one prays and begs God, it will be done to Him, but what he tells us today, has to do with the power of two (or three), plus one: “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”
This is the power from above. This is the power of grace. This is what ultimately gives us strength to forgive, to forget, and to overlook the sins and failings of others. This is the same power that makes us responsible (being watchmen) over God’s people. This is the very same power that makes us shun owing anything to anyone, other than love.
In my life, now with more past than future, I have had occasions where people I thought I trusted and cared for, betrayed me and made me suffer. There have been a few individuals who, apparently, would see nothing better than to watch me fail, or be miserable, for reasons best known to themselves. It is hard to accept this reality, and even harder to forgive and overlook the evil they have done, or still do.
I need strength from above. I cannot do it alone. I cannot solve this issue all by my lonesome self. I need reinforcement. I need others. Today is good news for people like me who suffer silently on account of the vileness of other people. This is the power of two (or three) plus one. And that one additional factor is nothing more, nothing less, and nothing else but God’s love. “Where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in their midst.”
P.S. I may not be able to post my homilies in the next three weeks as I am going for a long trip overseas and am not sure I can have access to a laptop computer, which I hate to be lugging everywhere I go throughout this time.