We learn sequencing and the order of rituals at a very early age. Infants are able to anticipate “what comes next” in basic sequences of events that have been routinely incorporated into their daily life. For example, a bedtime routine might consist of a diaper change, pajamas, short picture book, feeding in a dark room, and background white noise or soft music only used at bedtime. The end result (the parents desperately hope), is a sleepy baby who is ready to rest for more than 2 hours. This, of course, takes time, patience, and practice. However, study after study shows that a solid, consistent, unvarying routine will eventually result in a baby who somewhat regularly goes to sleep. 

Rituals and routines continue throughout our lives. There is a certain order of things in our daily existence: morning routines, after school routines, even our own bedtime routines. Each one cues our minds and bodies to a certain time of day or series of events that comes next.

In our Gospel today, Jesus offers us a routine, a blueprint, for how to consistently follow God and find Him in each moment. In order for the routine to work, however, the order must be followed as Jesus gave it to us.

First, and foremost, we must love God. Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 6:4-5. This is the Shema, the great commandment of the Lord. Before all else and above all else and with our whole self, we must love God. 

Love is not a static thing. It is active, vibrant, and multiplicative. Each time love is given, more love returns and expands. Therefore, it is logical that if we give God our love, love will be given back to us in equal and even fuller measure. What we receive, we can then continue to give. We give the love back to God, continuing the cycle of loving, but we have received even more than we gave. Where does the overflow of love go?

Jesus tells us it goes to two places. First, we must love ourselves. We are God’s beloved sons and daughters. We are made in His image and each of us is precious and unique. When we love ourselves with the love God has for us, we will recognize our inherent dignity and worth in His eyes. 

Our cup continues to overflow, because now that we have loved God and loved ourselves, we are bursting with a love that keeps multiplying. Who else can we share this love with? Our neighbor. When we share love with our neighbor, we are not only sharing love with him or her, but we are also loving Jesus who lives within them. 

The great cycle of love continues. Love of God, love and affirmation of self in the eyes of God, love of each of God’s children in whom God dwells. The deeper we enter into this cycle of love, the greater our capacity to love will grow.

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