National Unity After the Elections

“I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. Love one another as I have loved you”. This is Jesus’s final message to his disciples. Love is the central theme of God’s relationship to man. It is this infinite love why God sent his only son to be incarnate, reveal himself to us, and die on the cross so that we will be reconciled with Him and become heirs of eternal life.

In March 2016, Pope Francis presented his post synodal apostolic exhortation entitled “Amores Laetitia” following the Synods of the Family held in 2014 and 2016. The Synods were convened to address issues and challenges concerning present day families and the institution of marriage. The Synods on the Family addressed the Catholic Church’s pastoral care of families, particularly with regard to, among others, the access of divorced persons living in new unions to the sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist. The Holy Father, in his apostolic exhortation, underscored the joy of love in the family which he equated with the joy of the Church and the love of God. Thus, God wills it that love be the motivating force in every marriage and so should be in the family and by extension, to every man.

In the words of Francis, “In the human family, gathered by Christ, ‘the image and likeness’ of the Most Holy Trinity has been restored, the mystery from which all true love flows. Through the Church, marriage and the family receive the grace of the Holy Spirit from Christ, in order to bear witness to the Gospel of God’s love.” Surely, the joyful and life-giving love of the family arises from the experience of the joyful and life-giving love of God. The Church’s teaching on the family, therefore, is in itself a joyful act. For that teaching is in the first place the passionate proclamation of the “Gospel of the Family,” the simple yet profound truth that God loves all persons in and through the family.

In the Gospel today, Jesus is giving his disciples his farewell message that final night at the upper room. And the message was to love one another. This is the truest mark of being one of His disciples. This love is not an exclusive kind of love, limited only to whosoever we want to love. We are asked to transmit this love to others, even to our enemies, because we have been gifted with a relationship with him. By showing love we are revealing God to the world. Yet it is easy to love people who do good to us but infinitely difficult to express this love to those who hate or cause us pain and suffering. But as already said, by giving this love even to our enemies is the true mark of discipleship.

Now that the elections are over, this capacity to love and willingness to obey God’s injunction to love our neighbor, even those who may have wronged us or who we perceive have caused the community injustice in whatever shape or form, will again be tested. The divisiveness spawned by the recently concluded presidential elections makes loving those who do not subscribe or are contrary to our political beliefs and loyalties extra difficult. But God’s commandment to love is unequivocal. He commands us to love even our enemies. It is because of this that we need to transcend our petty and puny selves to learn to understand the “other side” of the political and social fence. Ultimately, it is not selfishness that will bring us through the difficulties that we will face as a community, as a nation, but one a relationship that is imbued with compassion, understanding, and self-sacrifice.

Our nation has yet to come out from the pandemic that has caused and is causing havoc to us all. The economy is moribund, inflation skyrocketing, with millions out of work, but political disunity and disharmony lurks in the shadows to rear its ugly head at the first opportunity, not to mention the chaos in the realm of international relations.

Whether it was Marcos or Robredo, the newly elected President must put together a national unity government. Such a government is not just a marriage of political families nor even of geographic regions like the Solid North and Mindanao but a unity of interests and stakeholders. Concretely, I would consider Marcos’ promise of national unity as serious if he supports the release of Senator Leila De Lima (by his prosecutors dropping their objections to her petitions for bail), allows also the temporary release of senior and ailing political detainees for humanitarian considerations, supports the opening of Lumad schools in Mindanao that were closed down by the Duterte government, orders the immediate stop of the killings in the war against drugs, continues the Philippine government’s compliance with the Comprehensive Bangsamoro Agreement, and resumes peace negotiations with the National Development Front.

National unity is possible. It should be motivated by love of each other, love of country and yes love of neighbor. Will our new leaders be up to this demand and make the hard choices to truly unite us?

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