The Love of God: What It Means in a Foreign Language

I was attending the last schedule for Sunday Mass in our parish when I received this inspiration from the Lord. I was sitting there at a certain spot inside the church listening to the beautiful voice of the cantor.

This phrase resounded in the depths of my heart. The Lord has revealed to the nations his saving power. (Psalm 98:2)

That was the Psalm for the day. I looked up at the LED display overhead. The same words were written there and I read them carefully in my mind.

How? I heard myself asking. How did God reveal his saving power?

Just when that thought came to my mind, the cantor sang the following line: he has remembered his steadfast love and his faithfulness to the house of Israel (Psalm 98:3).

The two phrases suddenly connected and I was enlightened. God revealed his saving power through his love. The saving power of God is love. As the priest had said in his homily, God is love all the time.

The essence of God is love and he cannot deny himself to his people. God is love all the time.


There is a slight difference between these words. They may be synonymous but the etymology of the words are different. Let me explain what I mean.

Pag – ibig is actually a compound word. It is composed of two (2) different elements of speech – a verb and a conjunction. Together, it forms a noun.

Tagalog grammar is quite complicated. It often creates confusion among learners. I hope I can give justice to the language in my explanation here.

Now, let me go back to my discussion.

As I mentioned, pag – ibig is made up of two (2) different parts of speech: a verb and a conjunction. “Pag” is the conjunction and “ibig” is the verb. The word “ibig” translates to desire in the English language while “pag” is an imperative conjunction attached to the word to stress the implied action.

It is also the same with “pagmamahal“. It also has the conjunction and the verb. However, “mahal” is an infinitive verb. The root word is actually an adjective which translates to costly or expensive in English. The infinitive verb means to hold dear or to put value.

We can actually say that the word “pag” means “to put“. Hence, “pagmamahal” can be translated as “to put value“. Meanwhile, “pag – ibig” would be translated as “to put desire“. Desire and value are two different things. There goes the difference between these two words.


In the gospel reading, Jesus spoke about love. He said, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:12-13).

What is the kind of love that Jesus was talking about? Is it “pag – ibig” or “pagmamahal”? What kind of love  Language of desire is it that makes you lay down your life for the object of your love?


I remember the words of Cardinal Tagle during a recollection I had attended in Ateneo de Manila University in December last year. He discussed about mercy and compassion. It was an echoing of the Holy Father’s movement for the entire Catholic church to become agents of mercy and compassion to the world.

The love of God has been poured into our hearts so that we can show the face of God who is a mother that is attached to her children; a father who is waiting for his children to return to him.” (Cardinal Tagle)

God’s love is compared to a mother’s love for her children. But what kind of love is a mother’s love? Is it more of “pag – ibig” or “pagmamahal”? Remember that “pag-ibig” is desire while “pagmamahal” is value. Which one does a mother have for her children?


Can you imagine your mother or your father telling you those words? Doesn’t that sound erotic? Translating that to English, it says, “I want you, my child!” Ewe! I don’t think any parent in his right mind would say those words to his child. That’s just utterly disgusting!

A mother’s love is more of “pagmamahal” than “pag – ibig“. She may not always like her children but she always holds them with great importance. She puts great value on them more than anything in the world. They are very important to her that she is ready to suffer and lay down her life to save them from destruction.

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