Summary: If the order is mixed up, problems happen
The secret of happiness is revealed to us by Jesus Christ in our Gospel text today concerning the “Relationship Triad” of Loving God, Loving Neighbor, and Loving Our self, in that order.
If the order is mixed up, problems happen as seen in one of the Peanuts’ comic strips which had Linus telling his sister Lucy that he wanted to be a doctor when he grew up. Lucy responded in her usual cynical way by saying, “You, a doctor? That’s a laugh. Do you know why you couldn’t be a doctor? Because you don’t love humankind.” Linus thought about this for a moment and then said, “I do love humankind. It’s people I can’t stand.”
The human groundwork for love has roots in early relationships with parents and caretakers and sets the tone for physical, emotional, and interpersonal development, which ultimately guides us to manifest the love of God and love of neighbor and of oneself.
The good news is that even where human love was lacking, if we stick to God’s relationship triad, we can live free and happy and have a faith that works-
1. There are four parts to loving God—“With all your…..
i. Heart--The fifteen-inch journey from the head to the heart can be a very long one. The heart is the inner depths of a person, the wellspring from which all our decisions and actions flow.
ii. Soul- is our whole self as a living being, that which Jesus said we must be willing to give up for his sake and which he will give up for our sake. In Hebrew this word also means breath. Love God with every breath you take; with all your “desire, yearning and craving.”
iii. Mind- is our thoughts and reasoning and imagination being animated by our love for God.
iv. All your strength- speaks of the commitment that calls for every ounce of our energy. The Hebrew word is usually an adverb that means “very.” Love God with all your “veryness and muchness.”
2. After we love God in those four ways, we are ready to love our neighbor as our self –
So we can transcend self and genuinely attend to others, especially to those who are suffering and poor.
This is true in parenting, and marital relationships too. Love from the Catholic perspective is other-directed and, ultimately, is always intended to bring us closer to God.
Loving neighbor frees us from preoccupation with the self and the problems of the self, from self-destructive emotions (like bitterness, rage, the rumination of resentments, despair), from lack of purpose, and from loneliness or isolation.
Unconditional love, called “Agape,” is an active concern for the neighbor's well-being, which is somehow independent of particular actions of the other.
This means in part that we are called not to let disparities and inequalities determine his or her basic attitudes towards others amongst others with whom he or she interacts.
Divine agape flows downward through the believer to the anonymous neighbor. The baptized believer is the channel.
All that can be agape derives from God.
Divine love yearns for response. It’s not a self-referential motivation to the divine, the divine initiates and we respond. That is the message of Fatima. In the OT, Abraham J. Hershel’s says that the prophets aimed for the annulment of the divine of affliction and rejection felt by God. e.g. tears of the Virgin Mary.
The chief function of prophecy was the turn human beings toward the divine to bring about a change from affliction of God to joy in the covenant.
Self-sacrifice is also agape love, but even then sacrificial love and reparation is based on Love of God because regard of one's self ought to be based upon the fact that he or she is a creature of God who is more than a means to some other end.
3. Self-love is so ordinary that Jesus used it as a reference point: Love your neighbor as you love yourself.
When I was in elementary school, the teacher sometimes solved the first problem on a sheet of homework to show us how the others were solved. Jesus used our love for ourselves in the same way. “Notice how you love yourself,” he said, “and love your neighbor in the same way.”
Yet, the love of self is a particular challenge—
In between the extremes of self-effacement and self-aggrandizement are found the diverse styles of authentic love of self, involving the capacity for self-possession and care for self.
e.g. In order to love self we have to forgive ourselves for all the things we done to ourselves because of the darkness and hurt we have caused by being alone, frustrated, angry and negative.
Love is an act of endless forgiveness, a tender look which becomes a habit (Peter Ustinov).