The Thirtieth Sunday
in Ordinary Time
October 29, 2017
Fr. José Maria Alvim Cortes, F.S.C.B.

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In Jesus’ answer to the scholar of the law about which commandment is the greatest, he says that the first is the love of God above all things and the second is the love of our neighbor (cf. M5 22:35–38). However, the measure of our love of our neighbor is our love for ourselves: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mt 22:39). Why does Jesus present the love of self as the measure of our love of our neighbor? Would it not be enough to say to love our neighbor?

In saying it this way, Jesus declares that the love of self is very important. Moreover, if we do not love ourselves, we cannot love our neighbor.

Usually, the meaning of the love of self is something bad. We identify the love of self with pride, selfishness and egocentrism. In antiquity, there was the Narcissus myth. Narcissus was known for his beauty. He was exceptionally proud. One day he saw his reflection in the waters and fell in love with it, not realizing it was merely an image. Unable to leave the beauty of his reflection, Narcissus died.

Naturally, Jesus is not talking about narcissism. He is not inviting us to be centered on ourselves. The so-called “love of self,” as pride and selfishness, is not love of self but hatred of self and ends badly. It is a kind of violence.

We were not created to be centered on ourselves. We are not the center of the world. Sometimes we think that we are. However, we are not.

The love of self that Jesus talks about is based on the adoration of God. Our Lord is the center. Christ says that the first and greatest commandment is as follows: “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Mt 22:37).

From this adoration comes the true love of self. The presence of God awakens a dignity in us and a tenderness for ourselves. We were made by God and we are sustained by him at every moment. It is the discovery of the love God has for us that makes us truly love ourselves and then others.

It is in God’s love for us that we find the capacity to love ourselves. To be able to love ourselves, we need to accept what we are. We need to accept our story, our parents, our family, our circumstances, and what we have been doing right and wrong. Ultimately, we need to accept our life as it is, which is not easy. It is especially not easy to accept what we did wrong or the wrong that other people did to us. We need forgiveness. Without it, the love of self is impossible. Without the mercy of God, it is not possible to conquer our inability to accept what we are.

From our encounter with Christ, we discover the meaning of the love of self. It is our encounter with the Son of God that sheds new light upon ourselves, giving us the energy to anchor our lives in the heart of God. Jesus teaches us how to make God the center of our lives. He teaches us a new way of loving.

Today is Mission Sunday. We remember that the Church is missionary by its very nature. The mission is still very far from completion. Today we remember all the missionaries, all the men and women who have given their lives for the name of Jesus to be known in all the corners of the earth.

We ask Our Lady of the Rosary to obtain the grace of keeping the missionary passion alive in all the Church.  Amen.

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