I LOVE MYSELF
Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Scripture Readings: Exodus 22:20-26; Psalms 18: 2-3, 3-4, 47, 51; 1 Thessalonians 1:5c-10; Matthew 22:34-40
My dear encountered couples:
Do you love yourself? Are you concerned about doing everything and anything that is best for yourself? Do you use each new day of your life as an opportunity to pursue and obtain what will bring you happiness?
These questions might sound rather foolish. The answer is the same for each and seems rather obvious. “Of course, I love myself. Of course, I am concerned about doing everything I can that is best for myself. Of course, I use every day of my life to pursue happiness. Doesn’t everybody?” As a matter of fact, everybody does not. We all might think we do, but do we really?
A few years ago, a man recently sued a cigarette company. Why is that? Because he got lung cancer from smoking their cigarettes. He claimed that all the while their advertising was encouraging him to take up smoking and continue smoking, they knew their cigarettes were addictive and could cause lung cancer. And the judge agreed with him. The cigarette company has to give the man hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Did that man love himself? Was he concerned with doing what was best for himself? Did he use each day of his life to pursue happiness? Of course, he did. Or at least he thought he did. But he was mistaken, wasn’t he? He was mistaken about the benefit of cigarettes. Do we maybe all, in our loving of ourselves, in our pursuing nothing but the best of happiness for ourselves, also make mistakes?
Does it happen that later, maybe too much later, we finally grow smart? Do we finally discover that all along, over the course of many years, we weren’t really loving ourselves but harming ourselves?
We thought we were doing what is best, but it becomes evident we were mistaken. I believe we all live in sort of a fog as to what is really good for us and what is not. And at least some, if not much of what we do for ourselves, ends up hurting us and causing us much grief and sadness. it is so easy to confuse love of self with passing pleasure and momentary gratification? A short-term benefit can turn out to be a long-term detriment. It sure was in the case of that man’s smoking.
If we can make mistakes when we are trying to love ourselves, how many do you suppose we make when we try to love others? Is what we are doing for others really benefiting them or harming them?
We give gifts, we give advice, we give example. Is what we give really good for other people? Maybe only time will tell. “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” Jesus said. How can we love others when we really don’t know for sure how to love ourselves? I would say it is very important not only to ourselves but to our relatives, friends, and neighbors that we do all we can to learn what true love of self is and practice it. Messing around ignorantly in the lives of others can cause severe damage, not only to their bodies, but to their souls.
Knowledge of what is really good for us throughout our lives here and in eternity should be a top priority on our list of pursuits. Scientists, doctors, dieticians, and exercise experts do their best to advise us about the care of our physical and mental selves. Jesus Christ came to enlighten us about our spiritual selves. Why do so many of us wait until we are into our later years of life before listening to any of them and trying to do what they say? Why do we put off so long what is good for the health of our physical and spiritual selves?
Many young people neglect both their physical and spiritual health. They yield to the temptation of smoking, drinking alcohol, and experimenting with illegal drugs, not to mention their neglecting God and Church. They think they are showing love for themselves and for their friends who, by the way, they are helping to influence towards doing the same things. They think they are living as is best for themselves, they think they are pursuing and experiencing true happiness.
It is often not until we grow older, when we start getting senior discounts at restaurants and movies, that we come to the startling realization that our time is growing short. And to stretch out our lives as much as possible we get into crash programs of dieting and exercising. Our physical health becomes important to us.
When we see our long-time friends dying, and eternity staring us in the face, when we live in a community where most of the people have one foot in the grave, the condition of our souls starts to become important to us. Age has a way of making us wiser. At least let us hope it does. The experience of age should open our eyes to what is really good for us and what is harmful. Why is it that so many of us grow too fast old and too late smart?
When I speak of loving ourselves, I am not suggesting we become narcissistic. Never should we become the center of all our concern and care. Self-absorption, self—seeking, and self-serving is not loving ourselves. But self-respect is! Anyone who properly values his own honor and dignity and worth will not do things that bring disgrace to his mother or grief to God. By trying to become the best people we can be, we are showing love to both God and neighbor. And our mothers will beam with pride.
“Teacher, which commandment of the law is the greatest?” And Jesus answered: “You shall love the Lord your God with your whole heart with your whole soul, and with all your mind.” This is the greatest and first commandment.
The second is like it: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” We must start loving ourselves properly before we can ever expect to love anyone else properly. Can we start trying today?