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Wednesday, September 18, 2019

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Loving ourselves, our neighbor and God are at the heart of our religion

Loving ourselves, our neighbor and God are at the heart of our religion

A scribe once asked Jesus which was the greatest commandment.

Jesus answered, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment, and a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”

These two commandments are the foundation of our religion as Christians. Unfortunately, we are not doing a good job with them. Why is that?

Could it be that we still believe “love” is a feeling and if the feeling isn’t there anymore, then that probably means we don’t love each other anymore? Or is it that we believe that we are all born naturally with the ability to love, so we just do what comes naturally?

Loving God might be the most important commandment. However, our human development required that we start with love of self and then move to neighbor and God.

My first question is this: do you love yourself? I am not talking about selfish love that always asks, “What’s in it for me?” Overall, do I look at myself in a positive light?

Let’s face it, all of us are tainted with evil ways. That does not make us evil. We also have a bad habit of comparing ourselves with others. We wish we were like so-and-so who has this gift from God, or this personality or these bodily features. The problem is that we fail to see our own giftedness and beauty.

We fail to realize who were are and whose we are. God made us in the image and likeness of the Almighty. The day of our baptism, the celebrant poured the water on us in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved son or daughter in whom I am well pleased.”

Realize whose you are. You are a child of God. You have value!

To understand love of neighbor we have to define the word “love.” The word “love” has many different meanings. Often it can mean passionate, sexual, romantic love. Sometimes it can mean affection for a dog or a new gadget. It can also refer to friendship between men or women.

Love in the gospel means self-giving love concerned totally for the other, rather than self. We can describe love of neighbor as creating the conditions that enable others to be themselves and achieve their full potential. It is a love leading to action, which respects, enhances, and sees the best in others, and seeks only the good of the other person. Is this sort of love humanly possible?

The basic truth is this: by our own nature, we are unable to love those around us who are unlovable. That requires a divine power. God must be the source of that love.

The most important command is loving God above all things or putting God first. Let’s be honest, if we tell someone we love them but we resent or do not spend time with them, then we don’t really love them and we don’t want to build a love relationship with them. So it is with God. If we don’t spend time with God, is God really number one in our lives?

Two things are essential for us if we are serious about our love of God. We need to have a daily prayer life. That means talking and listening to God. We need to be open to what God wants us to do in life. Second, we need to worship God every week, not just when we feel like it. God must come first.

God doesn’t expect us to learn about how to love in one lesson. God wants to teach us how to love ourselves, our neighbor and the Almighty if we have a teachable heart. Be open to learn how to love unconditionally.