Sunday’s Readings are all about “that love thing,” as a friend would put it. Jesus commands us to love God with our entire being, and our neighbor like ourselves.
We take that process literally. We say we should first love God. Then, for his sake, we love others. Lastly, self should be denied, sacrifices should be made. I would suggest that the process needs to be reversed: 1) love self; 2) love others and allow others to love me; and then comes 3) loving God.
How do we know what real love is unless we’ve first experienced it on a human level? Until we have the human experience of love, with all the attendant joys and sorrows, with the heights and the depths, the sacrifices and the forgiveness, then we really don’t know what loving God is like.
But even that direct experience of love is contingent on being able to love and appreciate oneself. Without this, one can’t fully love God and neighbor. Many folks do not love themselves very much. Many would not like others to know us as we think we really are. We go to great lengths to hide our inadequacies, our weaknesses. Many engage in a process of self-approval, which is not the same as self-acceptance. The latter means that I fully acknowledge both my strengths and weaknesses – including the fact that I am very self-centered – and I am not ashamed of them and I don’t mind if other people know them.
When I have nothing to hide, it is easy to be myself. Love and appreciation of oneself will flow naturally into love and appreciation of others, and we will be loved in return – though not by all. We cannot be loved by all because there are many people out there who are not able to love because they have such a difficult time loving themselves. It’s not because there is anything wrong with me. To want to be loved by everyone is simply unattainable. Equally unattainable is being able to love all people with the exact same intensity. That has to wait till heaven!
Love deeply, pray faithfully, laugh often!
Fr. Herb, C.S.C.