One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he asked him, “Which commandment is the first of all?” Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” Then the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that ‘he is one, and besides him there is no other’; and ‘to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength,’ and ‘to love one’s neighbor as oneself,’ —this is much more important than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” When Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” After that no one dared to ask him any question.
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved.
It is tempting to jump into action after hearing the great Gospel command to “love your neighbor as yourself.” But we cannot overlook the simile of this command: as yourself. We cannot give what we don’t have. We cannot love if we have not experienced love. St. Ignatius recognized this in the format of his Spiritual Exercises. Before we contemplate the life of Christ in week two (of the Spiritual Exercises), and how to best respond to the gift of God’s love in weeks three and four, we have to experience healing from our own guilt and shame during week one.
God’s love abounds for us and is the same love that extends from us toward others. But, until we recognize and truly experience that mercy, we won’t be able to fully share it with others. In this Year of Mercy, how can you live out the Gospel commandment to better love yourself?
—Sarah Otto received her M.Div from Boston College. She currently serves as director of the Newman Catholic Center in Chico, CA.
Lord, help me to believe that, despite my faults and imperfections, I truly am your Beloved. Allow that identity to become imbedded in my bones so that I do not forget who I am or to whom I belong. And because this love is abundant, Lord, allow it to flow out of me toward others.
—Sarah OttoPlease share the Good Word with your friends!