The Love of My Life

2 November 2017

Last Sunday, the Pauline Family celebrated the feast of Jesus, the Divine Master. Over the years, I have grown in deeper appreciation of the Pauline devotion to Jesus as our Divine Master, the Way, the Truth and the Life, which is not just a devotion, but a way of life. Jesus as our Master/Guru/Teacher guides us towards a life of sacrificial love, so that as his disciple, we may conform our entire being to him, and be his love to the world.

That's all well and good but from time to time, we get an epiphany or “aha” moment that brings to light something which was always there, but never really noticed, or, gives something a fresh perspective leading to a greater appreciation and understanding to what we already know.

A few months ago, I was listening to a relatively new song by Suzanne Vega. It’s called “Carson’s Last Supper” and is one of the songs in her latest album, Lover, Beloved: Songs from an Evening With Carson McCullers, (based on her musical stage show). As I was listening to it, the lyrics “The love of my life is humanity” just blew me away, and caused an “aha” moment for me. The line resonated with me because it spoke so much of my journey of life, faith and who I’m called to be!

My attempt at lettering this power line, praying these words will be a reality in me.

I have come to gradually realise over the years that the person I thought was the love of my life is actually NOT the real love of my life, (even though at the time of falling head over heels with him gave me the impression that he was.) Instead, I now know and acknowledge that Jesus (and in Him, our triune God) is the true love of my life. But, what does this exactly mean? How does this fact manifest itself in my life? Besides having given God my total yes in a life of consecration, how does this relationship grow, deepen, work when he is not physically present?

The commandment to love God and neighbour has always been two sides of the same coin, but to see humanity as the “love of my life,” had never occurred to me before, until I heard that Suzanne Vega song! Yet that is at the heart of St Paul’s theology of being one in the body of Christ, of communion, and the universality of salvation. God being at the centre of my life, and hence being the LOVE of my life, only becomes a reality, or manifests itself, when humanity is at the centre of my life. That humanity includes my sister in community, the stranger in the street, the masses of refugees displaced in foreign countries, the victims as well as the perpetrators of violence and terrorism….in short, the whole of humanity, irrespective of religion, race, philosophy etc. If I claim God as the love of my life, then all of humanity, saints and sinners, has to be the love of my life too. If not, then it's just an egoistical, illusional piety of an exclusive sentimental love that feels warm and fuzzy between God and I. Rather, God and humanity as the love of my life is an all inclusive love that embraces everyone, without exception, and which is usually sacrificial, self-giving, sometimes messy, and at times even painful. Ultimately it is a love that culminates with the cross. But we know that's not the end of the story because beyond the cross is the resurrection. It is a love that is accompanied and that leads to greater faith, hope and love. Mother Teresa aptly puts it, “I have found the paradox. If you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only love.”

So, this line, "the love of my life is humanity," just hit home for me and the imagery of the whole song, Carson’s Last Supper, (you can hear the entire song in the clip below) is like the heavenly banquet, the table of plenty, where all are welcome. I guess this moment of epiphany can be humbly likened a little to Thomas Merton’s epiphany “in Louisville, at the corner of Fourth and Walnut…” * or Caryll Houselander’s vision of the Body of Christ in the crowded underground train in London where she suddenly saw Christ, living and rejoicing, suffering and dying, in each and everyone of the passengers. I certainly do not claim to be any where near these spiritual giants in their insights and mystical experiences but I am grateful that once again, God uses the unexpected (though with a Suzanne Vega's song, it's not really a surprise!) to lead me towards some enlightenment and a deeper insight to a more authentic love relationship and communion with him (or them as in the Holy Trinity!).

May Jesus our Divine Master find you and I willing and fervent disciples as he continues to lead us to the way of truth and holiness, and may the Spirit fill us as we grow in our heavenly Father's (Mother's) unconditional love for humanity, and at the same time, grow in our love for God in humanity. It is an ongoing journey but towards the end of which, I pray we would be able to say, "Indeed, I have loved much. I have loved the love of my life, and that is humanity!" May the grace of God help us to be faithful!

"You must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy." 1 Peter 1:15

*“In Louisville, at the corner of Fourth and Walnut, in the center of the shopping district, I was suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that I loved all those people, that they were mine and I theirs, that we could not be alien to one another even though we were total strangers. It was like waking from a dream of separateness, of spurious self-isolation in a special world, the world of renunciation and supposed holiness… This sense of liberation from an illusory difference was such a relief and such a joy to me that I almost laughed out loud… I have the immense joy of being man, a member of a race in which God Himself became incarnate. As if the sorrows and stupidities of the human condition could overwhelm me, now I realize what we all are. And if only everybody could realize this! But it cannot be explained. There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun.
Then it was as if I suddenly saw the secret beauty of their hearts, the depths of their hearts where neither sin nor desire nor self-knowledge can reach, the core of their reality, the person that each one is in God’s eyes. If only they could all see themselves as they really are. If only we could see each other that way all the time.“
(Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander by Thomas Merton)

PS: As I concluded this post, I just realised that around this time in November, ten(!) years ago in 2007, I actually met and interviewed Suzanne Vega in Los Angeles for a feature article in Catholic News! The article, Growing in Contemplation with Suzanne Vega  and the interview were published in January 2008 to coincide with her very first concert in Singapore. (PDF uploads on scribd: 1a, 1b) What a happy coincidence, though with God I have learned there are no coincidences! Everything happens for a reason!  
(Happy anniversary Suzanne!!! 😊  XOXO)