Today we are told that we are friends of Jesus. Very comforting. However, as his friends, he also tells us that we must love one another…as he has loved us. Of all the commands of Jesus, is any harder to follow than this? Especially in today’s cultural climate. Love one another, friends and enemies. Yikes!
Remember the “greatest of Commandments? “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”? (Mt 22:37) Then Jesus added, “love your neighbor as yourself” (Mt 22:39). Jesus’ love for us is gifted love. No strings attached. He will be there for us; we need only believe that we are worthy, and he will bring us home to his love. Jesus’ love, however, cannot be received in a vacuum. It begs for action. Love of God and his love for us is intrinsically intertwined with the love of others. If you have not truly experienced that love, it may be hard to offer those blessings to another.
When you believe that you are worthy of God’s love, regardless of your lifestyle, the time will come when you become ready to change your life and to gift someone else. Loving yourself is a real and very necessary component of gifting love. But the method in which we love ourselves needs to be defined by the way God loves us. We cannot exist with an egotistical notion that “all is mine” and not also know that, at some point in our lives, the “love your neighbor” part is also necessary.
Who is your neighbor? Stand where you are at this very moment and look around. You are in no short supply of neighbors. A humble openness to learning from the love we receive will help you to pay it forward to each person you meet. Even if, as Mother Teresa once said, it’s just a smile. You could change someone’s world.
Perhaps a great way of starting the process would be to reflect on the Jewish blessing of Shalom. Shalom is not simply a nice greeting, something sweet to say to someone. Shalom goes much deeper. It means, in part, that all the blessings that I ask of God for myself, I also ask of God for you. No partiality. Give someone the gift of a resting place, shelter, warmth, comfort and companionship, and trust that your love, in partnership with God’s love, will bring you, as well as your neighbor, home. Oh, and let’s not forget that the offering of Shalom must also be for your enemies! Like it or not, they are also your neighbors. God Bless.
Jeanne Penoyar, an Accounts Manager here at Diocesan, is currently a Lector at St. Anthony of Padua parish in Grand Rapids, MI. While at St. Thomas the Apostle, Grand Rapids, Jeanne was a Lector, Cantor, Coordinator of Special Liturgies, Coordinator of lectors and, at one time, chair of the Liturgy Commission. In a past life, secretary/bookkeeper at the Basilica of St. Adalbert where she ran the RCIA program for the Steepletown parishes. And she loves to write! When relaxing, she likes reading and word puzzles.