by James Paulin
Many people keep to-do lists. These lists organize and prioritize our projects and they help us achieve our goals on time as well as reward us with a sense of accomplishment as we check off each task completed. We are overloaded with demands for attention even if all we do is watch television and we are told there is much we must do, see or have to be fulfilled and happy. Perhaps this is one reason “to-do” lists are so popular. Occasionally, a counter reaction surfaces to all the clamor telling us what we must do. “All you have to do is die and pay taxes” has been a popular retort in the past when someone is overwhelmed or frustrated. The financially clever even avoid the second requirement in many cases. How can a real list be made of what we must do in life? If it is to apply to everyone, it will be short and essential to existence.
To-do lists are a set of laws in a sense that they also imply what not to do. Therefore, the expert in these matters would naturally be a lawyer. Lawyers seem to always know an answer before they ask the question. Jesus ran into one and, of course, the legal expert asked Him a question about a must do list.
“There was a scholar of the law who stood up to test Him and said, “Teacher, What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus said to him, “What is written in the law? How do you read it?” He said in reply, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your strength and all your mind and your neighbor as yourself.” He replied to him, “You have answered correctly; do this and you will live.” (Luke 10: 25-28)
This concise statement by the lawyer was remarkable because the Son of God said it was exactly the right answer. The first part of the answer is about our relationship with God. However, this absolute bond and the way we treat our neighbor are totally dependant on two words that we must do. Love yourself.
Do you love yourself? Some would ask, “Why should I?” Lives include pain, regrets, disappointments, injustices and disabilities that can overwhelm even the strongest personalities. A popular notion is that we will be satisfied and fulfilled if financial or professional success is achieved. These measurements of self worth can be misleading and even turn into negative experiences if not honestly and fairly attained. The must do list is short and basic. We are commanded by God to first and foremost love ourselves. This love is best described as being kind, tender, dedicated and having intense respect, even affection.
It all starts by acknowledging the gift of life. Starting each day with the thought and attitude of thanks to God that I have this day, the present, to live and share my life in some good way. The way this spirit harkens back to the conversation between Jesus and the lawyer makes a command seem like just a natural way to be. Our attitude means everything. Be nice to yourself and accept yourself for who you are. Expect good things from yourself and forgive yourself as God forgives you.
The greatest reason to love yourself is expressed by Jesus coming into the world to live a life like ours. He was born in a lowly place, taught, healed physically and spiritually and experienced much pain and anguish. His agony and death on the cross proclaims a love for all of us as strong as His love of Himself, putting you in a place beneath that scene at Calvary. Go there spiritually and be safe and cleansed by His blood. The Glory of the Most High Son of God is given up for a moment in time because of love…of you.
“Love God, love yourself and your neighbor and you will inherit eternal life” Jesus Christ
We are a community of laymen and laywomen who, with vowed Passionists, seek to share in the charism of St. Paul of the Cross through prayer, ongoing spiritual formation, and proclamation of the message of Christ Crucified.