Sunday, August 28, 2011

To hate your neighbor as yourself

Sometimes I experience things that makes me frustrated with who I am and hateful to myself. Knowing how good God is to me only makes things worse. I start hating who I am because of the wrong that I have done and the good that I have failed to do. I start hating who I am because of the wrong that I am inclined to do and the good that I am inclined to ignore. I start hating myself because of the wrong that I will eventually do and the good that I will never do. I start hating who I am because of my weakness to carry my cross and follow Christ. I start questioning my goodness and end up judging myself unworthy of God's grace and fit for being disposed of in God's trashcan.

Then I remember Jesus commandment: "Love your neighbor as yourself" [Mark 12:31]. Since I truly want what He wants more than anything else, I am challenged to turn around and change my way of thinking. If I am hating who I am because of my weaknesses or because of what I have done, what I am inclined to do, and what I will do, then I cannot in reality be patient and forgiving and therefore loving to others who similarly struggle with their own demons and weaknesses. I am confident that patience and forgiveness are the natures of love, for St. Paul tells us that "Love is patient ... not irritable or resentful ... bears all things ... endures all things" [1 Corinthians 13: 4-7].

For example, if I have aborted my child in the past and have moved on and accepted God's forgiveness, but have been unable to forgive myself, resenting myself, and considering myself unworthy of a new start, then in reality I am not capable of forgiving another person who had done the same hurtful act. Not to forgive is not to love.

Similarly, planning to do what is good and failing to follow through with it is not an open door for resentment, hatred of oneself, or judging oneself unworthy; otherwise that same hatred and resentment would also transfer into judging others the same way, diminishing the hope of a new start. Did St. Peter not promise to follow Christ to death " I will lay down my life for you" (John 13:37) and hours later denied him three times? (John 18:15-18) Was he not later empowered by Christ's love to shepherd his brothers and sisters? (John 21:15-19)

God is an expert at taking our garbage and making good out of it. (See Genesis to Revelation) My sins and empty promises of the past are my garbage and being aware of them assures my ability to forgive (and therefore love) those who commit their own kinds of faults and empty promises. I cannot hate who I am for being inclined to do wrong and being weak to do good and claim that I love others around me who struggle with their own crosses.

In order to truly love others, I must love myself. The first cannot be done without the other. Through faith I am holding on the Spirit of Christ who is in me, who humbles me, instructs me, inclines me toward what is good, and strengthens me to bring it to fulfillment and to love others as I love myself.

In loving myself and others I am also loving God. St. Catherine of Sienna realized that the only thing she can give God back for loving her so much is loving those around her; since God is in need of nothing, she could only pay him back in loving others. St. John tells us "Beloved if God so loved us , we also must love one another... If we love one another, God remains in us, and his love is brought to perfection in us." [1 John 4:11-12].

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