31st Week in Ordinary Time
This week we listen to a not only a word about Love, but a real call to embody and embrace the Love that comes to us from the Father. When asked the greatest of the commandments Jesus responds and calls on the People to hear in the words that sound familiar to the Jewish people and leaders who have gathered. Shema Yisrael. Shema Yisrael (or Sh’ma Yisrael; Hebrew: שְׁמַע יִשְׂרָאֵל; “Hear, Israel”) This call to listen begins the prayer of the Jewish people from the Torah.
What does it mean for us to be called to listen to His cry? To Hear Oh Israel the Lord our God is Lord Alone! Quoting the Law Jesus says we are to Love God with our entire being, our lives caught up in the very Love of God. We recall that God is Love.
The starting place for us to experience know, receive and enter into God’s love is within the family. It is the love of a couple that models for the children the very Love of God. Pope Francis reminds us in Amoris Laettitia “The couple that loves and begets life is a true, living icon capable of revealing God the Creator and Savior.” It is through this sharing and formation in love that we first come to understand the loving nature of our God. God I deeply involved and engaged in our lives through love.
One first begins to grow in an experience of love, and knowing God through the family. This love is vital to our ability to understand and live the second part of the commandment, to love our neighbor as our very selves. As I shared with inmates this week I encouraged them to focus on growing in a knowledge of God’s love for them and their love of themselves. A healthy love of self seeking the best for oneself leads us to being able to love our neighbor. Self destructiveness and self harm does not promote the healthy love of self that directs us outward, to share the love of God that we have experienced and received. To love our neighbor as ourselves would seem quite easy, so often we miss the mark of loving ourselves that we are not able to love our brother or our sister.
This healthy self regard is not narcissism, Pope Francis states “Narcissism makes people incapable of looking beyond themselves, beyond their own desires and needs. Yet sooner or later, those who use others end up being used themselves, manipulated and discarded by that same mind-set.” What Jesus calls us to is a kind of love that reaches beyond oneself and seeks the good of the other, and unconditional love rooted in the love that God has for us, impelling us to share our own connection with the God who is love, a generous heart seeking to love and care for the other.
Let us love one another because love is of God.