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Wednesday, July 17, 2019

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Loving our neighbor can be difficult and demanding

Loving our neighbor can be difficult and demanding

“Curly” Veith is a 94-year-old wealthy Christian. As his business prospered, Curly said, “I used to lie awake at night thinking of the hungry and homeless children all over the world. So I decided to give all my money away to help them!”

He has given away $23 million so far!

Clearly this elderly man has taken to heart the message of Jesus to his followers the night before he died, “I give you a new commandment: love one another; just as I have loved you, you must also love one another. By this love you have for one another, everyone will know that you are my disciples.”

In many wonderful ways Jesus showed his love for people – in kindness, compassion, generosity, patience, perseverance, endurance, faithfulness and forgiveness. Jesus’ love knew no limits.

Jesus’ love is practical and down-to-earth. It involves a kindness and compassion that is self-forgetting. It’s a self-sacrificial kind of love so that others might be free – free to be good, kind, unselfish, generous and loving persons also.

It’s our love for others that keeps the great love of Jesus alive in our world today. An American journalist, watching Mother Teresa caring for a man with gangrene, remarked to her, “I wouldn’t do that for a million dollars.”

Mother Teresa replied, “Neither would I do it for that amount, but I do it for love of God.”

Loving our neighbor can be difficult and demanding. In the face of any radical terrorism, or in time of war, we are strongly tempted to dehumanize the enemy and regard them as outside the human family, unworthy of our love or respect.

Still, Jesus’ commandment to love, and his own example of forgiving those who crucified him, constantly call us to reconsider things and seek reconciliation rather than victory.

When is the last time you prayed for the conversion of the terrorists?

It is only when we work with God’s grace that we can love our neighbor as ourselves in this new way. Can we make Jesus present in our lives at various times during the day? It is only by living close to Jesus that we can love as Jesus asked us.

If we do not, we will be relying only on our human efforts alone. We will not love with the unconditional love Jesus asked for when he said, “I give you a new commandment: love one another as I have loved you.”

True love is the opposite of selfishness. Selfishness confines us, keeps us shut in. It builds barriers, even walls, between us and others. What frees us is caring about and for others, being friends, being loving sisters and brothers, being good neighbors. In short, it’s love alone that frees us from the cage of selfishness.

Love always demands the best from us, and brings out the best in us. Being loved gives us a surprising energy and courage. Love makes us fruitful, productive, and constant in doing good.

Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, famous for her work on the stages of dying, has written, “Love is the flame that warms our soul, energizes our spirit and supplies passion to our lives. It’s our connection to God and to one another.”

To love is to heal, both those who receive it and those who give it. To refuse to love is to die. To decide to love is to live. Yet love is a choice, not a feeling, and when we choose to be loving, caring, healing, helping, and forgiving persons, we experience well-being, contentment and happiness. That’s what life is all about and that’s what everyone wants!

That’s why Jesus strongly insists, “Love one another, as I have loved you.”