In the first reading, God, through Moses, says: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” while, in the Gospel, Jesus says: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you”. Dearest sisters and brothers, today’s readings challenge us to examine our lives with the yardstick of love. As Catholics, love is our passport and anyone who does not possess it is not a Christian. As St. Paul reminds us, we are God’s temple and we cannot be truly that if our hearts are not filled with God’s love.
But what is love? It is important to note that when Jesus talks about love, he doesn’t just refer to emotions that surge in our hearts towards our friends; otherwise, he would not command us to love our enemies. Remember, we do not always have wonderful emotions towards our enemies; yet, we are commanded to love them.
Love, therefore, far from an instinctive emotion, is a conscious decision of the will to draw close to other people irrespective of who they are. In Moses’ statement, this love must begin from ourselves. It does not say: “You should deny yourself and exist only for the other or that you must be less concerned about yourself and more about the other.” No, it says “as you love yourself”. Not more, not less.
It is important to remind ourselves that if we are not at peace with ourselves, we cannot really love anyone else. If we cannot accept ourselves, we will also reject others. If you are frustrated with yourself, you will be frustrated with others. The first thing is to be happy in your skin and then you will be able to love others.
Love means praying for the other, taking a risk for the sake of the other, always being there for the other, thinking well of the other, being truthful to the other even when it hurts him or her. Love, as someone says, is like a chain of gold that links together the hearts of the lover and the loved. Many saints have shown practical examples of love. Maximillian Kolbe gave up his life for the sake of another prisoner in the concentration camp.
Corrie Ten Boom’s family were all tortured and killed by Nazis because they were saving Jews in Hitler’s Germany as recounted in her book, The Hiding Place. It is to this kind of love that each of us is being called today by Christ. As Corrie reminds us, “it is not on our love that the world’s healing hinges, but on Christ’s. When Christ tells us to love our enemies, he gives along with that command, the gift of love itself.” May Christ teach us how to love!