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Loving Neighbor, Loving Self
Loving Neighbor, Loving Self

Loving Large Is Our Life’s Work

Friday, May 31, 2024

One of the scribes came to Jesus and asked, “Which is the first of all the commandments?” Jesus replied, “The first is this: …‘You shall love the Lord with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” —Mark 12:28–31 

In this homily, Father Richard considers Jesus’ response to the question, “Which is the first of all the commandments?”: 

I don’t think any of us really know how to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. We might want to love like that, but how do we put all the parts of ourselves together and actually do it? It takes our whole life to figure out what Jesus’ words might even mean. Then Jesus says, “You must love your neighbor as you love yourself” (Mark 12:31). Do any of us do that? Do we really love other people? Do we really give them as much attention as we give to ourselves? I don’t think so. We need to recognize, of course, that Jesus does imply that you must love yourself. If we hate ourselves, then how can we possibly know how to love our neighbor? We have to know proper and appropriate love of self, but we cannot stop there. 

Imagine how different the world would be if we just obeyed that one commandment—to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. It would be the most mighty political, social upheaval imaginable. The world would be radically different if human beings really treated other people as they would like to be treated. We can take this as a simple rule of thumb: What would I want from that person right now? What would be helpful for me to receive? Well, there’s our commandment. There’s our obligation to do to others!  

It’s so simple that we can see why we put all our attention on the Ten Commandments, or the hundreds of other regulations culture and religion place on us. It’s much easier to worry about things that keep us “pure,” so to speak, but are of little consequence.  

I think the scribe is asking a very good question. After all is said and done, it comes down to loving God and loving our neighbor—and that implies loving ourselves. If I said this without quoting Jesus, I could be accused of oversimplifying or ignoring some of the important commandments, but thank God Jesus said it first. He taught that it’s all about love, and in the end, that’s all we’re all going to be judged for. Did we love? Did we love life? Did we love ourselves? Did we love God and did we love our neighbor? Concentrating on that takes just about our whole lifetime and we won’t have much time left over to worry about what other people are doing or not doing. Our job is to love God, love ourselves, and love our neighbor. 

Adapted from Richard Rohr, “613 Commandments Reduced to Two,” homily, November 3, 2012.  

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:  

One of my neighbors is very outspoken with her political views. Her yard signs sometimes aggravate other neighbors by promoting ideas that some would call conspiracy theories and other divisive ideas. As I have been reading the Daily Meditations, I have felt the spirit of Love and reconciliation grow in my heart. One day, I thanked her for her devotion, explaining that she was an important voice in our community. She looked shocked, and then quickly softened her defensive manner toward me. I felt a shift and something was transformed that day. Now, as I communicate with her, she trusts that I respect her dignity. I have begun to fold her into my life as a gift. Thank you for preparing me for this powerful moment of grace.
—Nancy C. 

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