What do Justin Bieber lyrics and today’s Gospel reading have in common? Both are giving us strong commandments about love. Okay, so I realize that in the Bieber song that I am referring to, he is very sarcastically writing off an ex-girlfriend and telling her to basically get over herself. So why did it come to my mind this morning as my husband and I sat in Mass together listening to the readings of the day? Let me elaborate.
Today’s Gospel reading (Luke 10:25-37 can be found here at the USCCB website) is a story of a scholar of Mosaic Law who approaches Jesus and asks what he must do to inherit eternal life. The Lord’s response is this:
“You shall love the Lord, your God,
with all your heart,
with all your being,
with all your strength,
and with all your mind,
and your neighbor as yourself.”
The reading then continues into Jesus sharing the parable of the Good Samaritan, where the priest and Levite avoid stopping for a severely injured man, while the Samaritan selflessly helps this man as he ought to help his neighbor. My first thought while hearing this story today was that it is very obvious in our current day that few people love their neighbors as themselves. This is evident in the hate speech that is so prevalent right now with people from all perspectives demonizing their “enemies” regarding the #blacklivesmatter movement, the Dallas police shootings, and many other human and civil rights debates. It seems like what we all need is more love for our neighbor, right?
The thought occurred to me then, “What if people actually are trying to love their neighbors as themselves? What if the real problem is that nobody in our broken culture knows how to love themselves well?” We buy into the lie that our self-worth is actually defined by the amount of love that other people are willing to give us. We live in a world where people loathe their own bodies, shame people who are too fit, too fat, or too white/black/green (I am looking at you Elphaba) – you name it and someone has been shamed for it. We put ourselves up on an auction block, subject to quick swipe right/left judgments in all parts of our lives in order to find someone who will value us by telling us we are sexy, worthy of attention, or superficially meaningful in the world. So then, of course, we disrespect our own bodies, conform our personalities and opinions, seek to fit in above all else. How else are we supposed to know how much we are worth if not based on the amount of likes on our Instagram picture?!! Naturally then, we show every other person the amount of same loathing, judgment, and disrespect that we feel we ourselves deserve.
I am not trying to hate on dating apps, wearing makeup, or living within the confines of social norms. I realize that, to a certain extent, these cultural and social norms are designed to give us structure and order in our world so that we can walk out of our house and take comfort in having certain expectations of what sane people should act like. The purpose of this blog is actually to challenge people to realize that, although social constructs give us stability in the world, we have to be able to separate ourselves from them at times and see our inherit human dignity that cannot ever be stripped by the harsh stares of your classmates, neighbors, or random passerby on the street. More importantly, since this is an NFP blog, I want to look at the question of loving ourselves, including our fertility. Maybe one of the most basic ways we can begin to learn to loves ourselves better, so that we love our neighbors better, is by learning to understand and nurture our own fertility, not destroy it. Maybe we should try defying these pressures of the culture to define our self-worth by what a guy at a bar says to us. Maybe we should try defying gravity. (Oops, can you tell I am listening to Wicked while I write?) To bring it back for all of the Bieber fans out there, maybe we should go and love ourselves.