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Loving Our Families

First Reading: 1 John 4:19–5:4

Beloved, we love God because
he first loved us.
If anyone says, “I love God,”
but hates his brother, he is a liar;
for whoever does not love a brother whom he has seen
cannot love God whom he has not seen.
This is the commandment we have from him:
Whoever loves God must also love his brother.

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is begotten by God,
and everyone who loves the Father
loves also the one begotten by him.
In this way we know that we love the children of God
when we love God and obey his commandments.
For the love of God is this,
that we keep his commandments.
And his commandments are not burdensome,
for whoever is begotten by God conquers the world.
And the victory that conquers the world is our faith.

Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 72:1-2, 14 AND 15BC, 17

R. Lord, every nation on earth will adore you.
O God, with your judgment endow the king,
and with your justice, the king’s son;
He shall govern your people with justice
and your afflicted ones with judgment.
R. Lord, every nation on earth will adore you.
From fraud and violence he shall redeem them,
and precious shall their blood be in his sight.
May they be prayed for continually;
day by day shall they bless him.
R. Lord, every nation on earth will adore you.
May his name be blessed forever;
as long as the sun his name shall remain.
In him shall all the tribes of the earth be blessed;
all the nations shall proclaim his happiness.
R. Lord, every nation on earth will adore you.

Gospel: Luke 4:14-22

Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit,
and news of him spread throughout the whole region.
He taught in their synagogues and was praised by all.

He came to Nazareth, where he had grown up,
and went according to his custom
into the synagogue on the sabbath day.
He stood up to read and was handed a scroll of the prophet Isaiah.
He unrolled the scroll and found the passage where it was written:
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring glad tidings to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.

Rolling up the scroll, he handed it back to the attendant and sat down,
and the eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at him.
He said to them,
“Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”
And all spoke highly of him
and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth.

NAB

jan 7

We’re supposed to love our neighbors. Oh, yes, I love my neighbor. I wave and smile. I mail fudge to friends in need. I volunteer my time. Aren’t I just so great? But the First Reading from Saint John makes me gulp. I love God but I don’t always love my family. I don’t treat them like I love them, those closest to me, and that’s profoundly sad. It renders my love of God incomplete.

We are blessed to have my parents live with us part-time. They’re still active, healthy, and young so it’s not for their benefit but ours. The kids adore them and have a deep relationship with them. When they’re not at their home in Wisconsin, they’re with us. And I can run to drop our eldest at his nature school a few afternoons a week while the two littles nap because my mom is here. And my dad can drive up to the train station to get my husband in the (already) dark, cold nights instead of me bundling up all the kids to do it. And we can slip away after bedtime to clear our heads with some tea and conversation while my mom continues to remind the kids that it is, indeed bedtime.

Of course I love them, but I’m short tempered, cranky, and dissatisfied when they don’t help me the way want them to. I’m quick to criticize in my heart. I’m a wretched brat some days. And these are the people I love so much, and am seeing in front of me. If I treat them this way, how can I love the God I cannot see, as Saint John asks? It can be easier to love our distant neighbor than those close (or inside) our home.

I’m going to pray for you that you’re able to love your family more completely, and I’m going to ask for the graces to be a more gracious daughter, sister, wife, and mother. If your family has some deeper issues and need healing, perhaps consider family counseling to enable you to love each other more fully. Family relationships are complicated and we need all the help we can get.

photo credit

Nell O’Leary is an attorney turned stay-at-home mom to three lovelies. She and her husband live in the great city of Saint Paul. You can find out more about her here.

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