"Remember, I am with you always to the end of the age" (Mt 28:20)

Go With A Friend

here are three points to my sharing. First, conscience and love are constant and inseparable companions. Where one is found, the other should be present as well. Without a developed conscience to guide our moral compass, we cannot truly love ourselves, let alone others, healthily and maturely.

Let me illustrate love and conscience using a children's story entitled "The Big Trip" by Valeri Gorbachev. It is about two friends, one a pig and the other a goat. “I am going to take a trip far away,” Pig said to Goat one day. “How will you go?” asked Goat. “Let me think for a moment,” said Pig. “Maybe I will go by bike—that will be a very nice trip.” “Oh, dear,” said Goat. “You could fall off a bike.” “Ah,” said Pig. “Then I will drive a car.” “It’s not a good idea, Pig,” said Goat. “A car can break down!” “Oh,” said Pig. “Then I will go by horse on my trip.” “I’m not sure about that,” said Goat. “Horses can be very jumpy!” “Then I will go by train,” said Pig. “Oh, Pig, oh, Pig,” said Goat, “a train could get stuck in a tunnel!” The conversation continued on and on, and every time Pig would say something, Goat would say, "Do not go, it will not work."

Our conscience and our love, which we earlier said are constant and inseparable companions, could fall into this kind of problem. It is unavoidable. This can create what is called a "catch-22" situation, in which an individual cannot avoid a problem because the solution to the problem is also the cause of the problem. The term originates from Joseph Heller's World War II novel, where a "catch-22" rule states that airmen can be grounded if they are deemed insane, but to be grounded, they must request it. However, requesting to be grounded is considered a rational action, proving they are not insane after all and must continue flying dangerous missions. Another example is that to get a job, you are required to have experience first, but you cannot have experience if you are not given any job to gain the needed experience.

For my second point, though love and conscience could fall into a "catch-22 situation," the solution to forming a good conscience is also tied to the ability to love. We cannot get rid of the tension. You cannot love truly without first having a developed conscience, for it will be like taking a trip without a compass or GPS. In cases of doubt, there is the primacy of conscience. Like our story, there is only Pig without Goat. Pig could go to any place he likes; Pig has absolute freedom. But in reality, we need Goat. Goat takes primacy; we need a formed conscience to guide the actions of Pig in his comings and goings, in his actions of loving. Shakespeare touches on this idea in the first line of Sonnet 151: "Love is too young to know what conscience is; yet who knows not conscience is born of love?" He suggests that even though a formed conscience should guide love, only experiences of love while growing up could shape our conscience.

For my third and last point, there is a third element that prevents love and conscience from falling into a catch-22: that is truth. Love rejoices in the truth! Truth serves as the backbone of love and conscience, setting them free. Love, seen through the lens of truth, goes beyond merely avoiding harm. If you love someone, you will protect and treat them with great reverence and respect, allowing them to exercise their God-given freedom. You will not judge but show more compassion and mercy because you see the face of God in them. Conscience and genuine love move from being self-centered to being other-centered and truth-centered. From childhood to adulthood, conscience is formed and informed, guarded, and guided by the Spirit of truth. A well-formed, well-informed, well-guarded, and well-guided conscience moves beyond selfishness, beyond egoistic tendencies, and moves towards caring for others and loving them as oneself.

Today at Pentecost, we celebrate the descent of the Spirit of truth. No wonder the term Advocate is used as a legal term, in both English and the original Greek "Parakletos." “When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth that proceeds from the Father, he will testify to me" (John 15:26).

Let me finish the story of the two friends, Pig and Goat. We come to the part where Pig is already angry towards Goat. “STOP! STOP! STOP!” exclaimed Pig. “I could fall off a bike, break down in a car, get thrown by a horse, or get stuck on a train. Traveling could bring me many troubles!” “So, I will not go anywhere,” said Pig. “Having a big trip is a very scary thing.” “Unless...,” said Goat, looking at Pig, “you go with a friend.” The term "Advocate" implies a comforting, supportive, and guiding role, which aligns with the characteristics of a friend. In this world, going on a journey is a very scary thing, unless we go with a friend, with an Advocate. Amen. Fr JM Manzano SJ