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Loving Neighbor, Loving Self
Loving Neighbor, Loving Self

Commanded to Love

Monday, May 27, 2024

Father Richard describes how we can grow in our love for God, others, and ourselves: 

The God Jesus incarnates and embodies is not a distant God that must be placated. Jesus’ God is not sitting on some throne demanding worship and throwing down thunderbolts like Zeus. Jesus never said, “Worship me.” He said, “Follow me.” He asks us to imitate him in his own journey of full incarnation. To do so, he gives us the two great commandments: (1) Love God with your whole heart, soul, mind, and strength; and (2) Love your neighbor as yourself (Mark 12:28–31; Luke 10:25–28). In the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:29–37), Jesus shows us that our “neighbor” even includes our “enemy.” 

So how do we love God? Many of us seem to have concluded that we love God by attending church services. For some reason, we think that makes God happy, but I’m not sure why. Jesus never talked about attending services, although church can be a good container to begin with. I believe our inability to recognize and love God in what is right in front of us has allowed us to separate religion from our actual lives. There is Sunday morning, and then there is real life. 

The only way I know how to teach anyone to love God, and how I myself seek to love God, is to love what God loves, which is everything and everyone, including you and including me! “We love because God first loved us” (1 John 4:19). “If we love one another, God remains in us, and God’s love is brought to perfection in us” (1 John 4:12). Then we love with God’s infinite love that can always flow through us. We’re able to love people and things for themselves and in themselves—and not for what they do for us. That takes both work and surrender. As we get ourselves out of the way, there is a slow but real expansion of consciousness. We’re not the central reference point anymore. We love in greater and greater circles until we can finally do what Jesus did: love and forgive even our enemies. 

Most of us were given the impression that we had to be totally selfless, and when we couldn’t achieve that, many of us gave up altogether. One of John Duns Scotus’ most helpful teachings is that Christian morality at its best seeks “a harmony of goodness.” [1] We harmonize and balance necessary self-care with a constant expansion beyond ourselves to loving others. This is brilliant! It’s both simple and elegant, showing us how to love our neighbor as our self. Imagining and working toward this harmony keeps us from seeking impossible, private, and heroic ideals. Now the possibility of love is potentially right in front of us and always concrete. Love is no longer a theory or a heroic ideal. Love is seeking the good of as many as possible.  

[1] Mary Beth Ingham, The Harmony of Goodness: Mutuality and Moral Living According to John Duns Scotus, rev. ed. (St. Bonaventure, NY: Franciscan Institute Publications, 2012). 

Adapted from Richard Rohr, Franciscan Mysticism: I AM That Which I Am Seeking (Albuquerque, NM: Center for Action and Contemplation, 2012). Available as MP3 audio download. 

Image credit and inspiration: Cynthia Magana, untitled (detail), 2016, photo, Unsplash. Click here to enlarge image. In order to care for each other, we must also take care of ourselves. 

Story from Our Community:  

I’m grateful for the spiritual frame Dr. Barbara Holmes brings to CAC’s Daily Meditations. It feels so good for me. I want to live by her way of understanding the world and less by what the “accepted culture” thinks is correct. At 79, it’s about time! I believe that less is more, and that it’s valuable to be a good neighbor and share resources. I continue to seek opportunities to be of service in my own town and community.
—Irene C. 

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