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Love One Another
Sunday, May 10, 1998
John 13:31-35

It is the day before the elections. The official campaign period has ended. Some, of course, breath a deep sigh of relief. Finally, the season of tired speeches, empty rhetoric, lackluster discussion, and dry debates is coming to an end. Finally, after tons upon tons of electoral propaganda have spared no building, no billboard, no wall, no tree, and after newspaper, radio, television and internet have informed or misinformed rich and poor on the qualities or perils of the candidates and the dangers of electoral fraud, the talk in the barbershops, in the coffeeshops and on the streets is definitly elections. Finally, when all has been said and done, at the polls tomorrow, the much-anticipated choice of the people will be made.

Some may be weary of all the hullabaloo, and wish to God that things were otherwise. But on this day before elections, in the silence of this Sunday, the Lord’s Day, it is good to be able to stand back, take stock – and even, perhaps, be grateful. Political leadership is not passed on in the Philippines by inheritance, that disqualifies all those who are not born into royalty. It is not monopolized by an elite central politburo, whose rhetoric is laced with references to "the People," but whose practice depends on a privileged politically-elite class. It is not presided over by an ancient President of a sham democracy impervious to the demands of his people for reform. The dark age of our dictatorship is over. We now enjoy the right to choose our own leaders. Happily, the Filipino people exercise this right with much enthusiasm. Unlike older, more-established, and tired democracies, where participation in the polls is minimal and elections are boring, elections for Filipinos and Filipinas are an exciting event. For that we can be grateful.

It was the Good Shepherd that said, "I have come that they may have life, life in all its fullness" (Jn 10:10). It belongs to the fullness of human life to participate in the political life of our nation. It belongs to the fullness of human life to be able to sacrifice private convenience, personal advantage, or even one’s own life, that the good of others, the common good might be attained; this is ultimately what happens when one offers himself or herself for political service through elections. It also belongs to the fullness of human life to participate in the grand political decisions that affect one’s life so deeply; this is ultimately what happens when one votes. The electoral exercise is therefore much more than a seasonal circus of questionable value. Especially if participated in as Christians, it is a profound exercise of the full humanity to which we are challenged by our Lord.

Certainly, in the culture of Philippine politics there is much room for improvement. Things would be better if electoral choices were based more on issues, and less on personalities. If people were attracted to candidates more for the political programs they represent, rather than the singers and dancers who accompany their campaign sorties, the seriousness of the choices made in elections would be better appreciated. If, for the sake of the people, lies and mudslinging and character assassination would not be resorted to, the political discussion during elections would raise the general level of understanding of the complex problems we confront as a nation.

For ultimately, as Christians, through elections and beyond, we are bound by the Lord’s words repeated in today’s Gospel: "Now I give you a new commandment: love one another. Just as I have loved you, you must love one another." (Jn 13:34) The central mark of the Christian – be he or she a politician running for public office or simply a voting citizen – is love: "By this will everyone know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another" (Jn 13:35). In this community of love, people are elected to authority in order to serve. That was the substance of the message of the model leader to us, the Lord and Master, before he died: "If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet, you also must wash one another’s feet" (Jn 13: 14).

Tomorrow, therefore, let us vote for those whom our conscience says will best be servant of the people. Let us in Christian hope contribute what we can to honest, orderly and peaceful elections. And finally, when this electoral exercise is over, let us accept the will of the sovereign people, and as a community of loving Filipinos get on with the work of building our community and our nation.

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Christian Action for Peaceful and Meaningful Elections
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