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Seek not to be loved, as to love

In today’s Gospel Reading from St. Matthew a lawyer among the Pharisees again tries to entrap Jesus by asking Him the question, “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest.” Jesus’ response appears multiple times in Holy Scripture, as He says, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” The Lord then adds another that He cites as almost equally important, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Much has been written and conjectured about both of these, and often the focus is on who our neighbor is. However, there is another element of the second Great Commandment that is worthy of note, and that is loving the neighbor “as yourself.” Too often people conclude that this means that you have to love yourself first. Most of us, however, do grasp what it means to love the Lord with all we are, although we find it incredibly difficult to accomplish. But we must remember that our Lord is greatly pleased with our striving.

We must bear in mind, however, that this second Great Commandment does not mean that it is
necessary for us to love ourselves before we can love anyone else. It means, quite simply, that most of us tend to be overly concerned with our own interests and our own personal situations. Jesus is telling us that just as we often think of ourselves, we need to also take care of, and have concern for, the interests of others.

The familiar Prayer of St. Francis, well known to most Catholics, pretty-well sums up what this kind of love (to which we are all called) really is. In Francis’ prayer we appropriately pray, “Lord, grant that I might not so much seek to be loved, as to love.”

I was away last weekend for yet another funeral of a close friend and classmate, which makes five in the past 5 months (including my sister, Deirdre). An equal number of parishioners have died this year as well. Our love, caring, and comfort for others is particularly important when it comes to the waning days of one’s life, when the imminent end of life is known. Our empathy, love and comfort is also needed, for those impacted by the sudden and unexpected death of a loved one. Either way, hearts are cut deep and an expression of our love and care is immensely important. In coming months, I would like to help us all explore the merits of not only being cognizant of our imminent passing from this mortal world to the anticipated bliss of eternity with our Creator…but also to show our true faith in that reality. We can do that by increasing our knowledge and understanding of the Catholic funeral rite and then planning (in our mid-life years) our own funeral ceremony. That may sound like a “way out” suggestion but I am sure, with a little more explanation, that you will see the
great spiritual merit that accrues to doing this.

We are just completing the month of October, dedicated to both the Blessed Mother and to the
heightening of our Respect and Love for Life as it Begins and…also as it Ends. Our parish Respect Life Ministry is in great need for more active and prayerful members. Please contact Pat Antoniello at (904) 704-1073, or call me, if you would like to know what is involved.

Also, please support our designated Parish day at 40 DAYS FOR LIFE. Our parishioners will be
standing in peaceful, prayerful vigil in the public right-of-way outside of A Women’s Choice of Jacksonville at 4131 University Blvd. S. from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Our Parish Day is November 1st. Please see the sign-up sheet on the bulletin board in the Narthex.

Yours in Jesus Christ through Mary,