Living my best life means following the two greatest commandments
In the words of St. Mother Teresa: “Not all of us can do great things, but we can do small things with great love."
It’s a new year, and with that comes the long-time tradition of making a list of resolutions and the relatively new advent of choosing a word of the year.
Everyone’s resolutions and words are different, but I think, generally, both are created to give us goals that will help us improve ourselves and strive to better our relationships with the humans and creatures who share the planet with us.
As 2021 drew to a close, I was mentally making up my lists of resolutions for 2022 and considering a word for the new year, when the Bible verses Matthew 22:37-39 popped into my mind. .Jesus spoke the words in the verses in response to a Pharisee, who, in an attempt to trip Him up, asked Him what the greatest commandment was.
As I reflected on Jesus’ answer: “You shall love the Lord your God with all of your heart, and with all of your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. The second is like it. You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” I realized they summed up both any resolutions I would make and words that I would select.
That’s because loving God encompasses physical, emotional and spiritual care of myself and loving my neighbor takes care of everything else I would have on the list.
For example, if I love God with the intensity Jesus directs us to in Matthew 22:37 I will do my best to take care of the body He gave me by eating foods that will sustain it, but not burden it with too many calories, get the exercise I need to keep me strong and fit and take the necessary preventative measures to avoid illnesses.
When it comes to spiritual goals, the words of the greatest Teacher resonate with me because loving God also means striving to be close to Him through reflection by reading the Bible, regularly attending Mass at my church and continuing to learn about my Catholic faith.
Meanwhile, loving God means placing implicit trust in Him, which will assuage my tendency to worry, something that has a negative affect on my emotional health. Intentional love for God also will improve my emotional health by helping me feel grateful for every moment He gives me and by relying on Him for support instead of myself when life’s burdens start to weigh me down.
The second part of the verse, which is to “love my neighbor as myself,” sums up the way I should treat other human beings, the creatures that we share the planet with and the Earth, itself.
If I love my neighbor, as I do myself, for example, I will treat people with the kindness, respect and dignity they deserve in thought, word and deed. Because Jesus’ definition of neighbor includes not only people we like and know but everyone, no matter who they are, and where they live, that means that I have to set aside my biases and love people for who they are, not for who I want them to be, and do what I can to not only get along with them, but to make their lives better.
I believe that taking care of our dogs and cats and supporting organizations that take care of homeless pets also is a part of loving my neighbor, so I will also strive to do that. Stewardship of our farmstead and respectful treatment of wildlife, meanwhile, is a way to take care of the corner of the world God entrusted to us, and that will continue to be a priority.
While striving in 2022 — and beyond — to live out Jesus’ two greatest commandments won’t change the world, they will improve my corner of it. In the words of St. Mother Teresa: “Not all of us can do great things, but we can do small things with great love."