“Jesus answered, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and most important commandment. The second most important commandment is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as you love yourself.’ ”
Father Ignatius stopped reading from the Gospel of St Matthew Chapter 22 and looked up at the congregation sitting there.
“And that’s where the problem lies,” he said, “love your neighbour as you love yourself.
“It’s almost too difficult for some people; and do you know why?
“It’s because too many people just do not love themselves.
“Yes … that’s right … they don’t really love themselves.
“They find faults with themselves and see no reason to like or love who they are. Many have a problem with their self-image or about their character in some way.
“They think they don’t look pretty enough for today’s society.
“And it is not just our physical appearance that some of us find cause to dislike; the shape of our nose, or our ears or whatever else we think is wrong.
“Some people don’t love themselves because they feel inadequate in some way or other. They feel they’re too shy perhaps, or not bright or clever enough like their friends, or not successful as others at work or in business.
“Many people sadly conjure up any reason they can think of which erodes their self-confidence, their self-esteem, and leads them not to like or love themselves.
“When Jesus said ‘as you love yourself’; He did not mean we should all have a Narcissus complex and be totally self-centred and self-obsessed.
“He was teaching us to appreciate who we really are. Not the outer part of ourselves, the visible body which we may find fault with, but our inner self. Our very soul!”
Father Ignatius paused for a while.
“We are the Creation of God. Each one of us different and unique. Each one of us beautiful in our own way and worthy of love,” he continued with a smile, “God does not make mistakes. There are no rejects off His production line …
“Every one of His Creations is different, unique, and perfect in every way. And certainly worthy of love.
“And with your help, I will prove it to you.”
He looked up at the congregation in anticipation. They were intrigued and he definitely had their full attention.
“I want you to promise me you’ll do as I ask … will you do that?”
They nodded and some said yes and agreed.
“When you get home after Mass I want each one of you to take a piece of paper and write down two or three things about yourself which you like.
“It could be anything. Your ability to play the piano perhaps, or the fact that you’re a hard worker, or maybe you’re a good cook, or you are good at drawing, painting or writing.
“Or it could be that you sing so well that the neighbors have broken all your windows to hear you better!”
“And when you’ve written down your list of two or three items, I want you to consider them as gifts from the Good Lord especially for you.
“Whatever is good about or within you is from His making, and not from your own efforts. He gave you the ability to sing, dance, and play music or whatever else you are or can do. These are gifts He gave you when He made you as a baby all those years ago.
“And as you learn to thank God for these gifts, as you begin to appreciate these gifts from Our Lord, especially and uniquely for you; then slowly and in time you’ll learn to appreciate yourselves.
“You’ll start to like yourselves as you really are; a gift from God.
“Whoever you are today is a gift from God. Whatever you do with your lives is your gift back to God.
“And as you learn to love yourselves a little better, then will you be able to appreciate and love your neighbours as Jesus commanded.”
Other Father Ignatius stories HERE