There is no question that COVID-19 has changed the way Halloween will be celebrated this year. There are restrictions in some towns, and others have canceled house-to- house visits. Even the Trunk or Treat event that will be held here on Friday has been changed to keep the trick or treaters safe. The children have enough to deal with, especially if they have returned to learning in school. This just shows us the impact that COVID-19 has had on our society, and now that most activities have moved inside, we could feel the virus’s effects again. The number of people infected with COVID-19 has increased in New Jersey, the United States and even in Europe. The second wave has begun, so we have to be diligent in following the protocols to keep us safe: wearing masks, maintaining a 6-foot social distance, and washing and sanitizing our hands. Be safe. In today’s Gospel, Jesus teaches us the two great commandments: to love God with our entire being and to love our neighbor as ourselves. These commandments are the foundation of how to live as followers of Jesus.  Loving oneself means that we recognize that each of us is a valuable creature of God, created in God’s image. It also means that we accept ourselves as we are, both the positive and negative aspects, because they make us who we are. This doesn’t mean that we can’t improve; it means that God loves us as we are with the hope that we can become better people. Loving ourselves allows us to love one another, recognizing that each person is also loved by God, and in loving our neighbor, we acknowledge that we are brother and sister to each other. We are all given the same mission, which is to help build the kingdom of God on earth. Then we are able to love God, whose presence in our lives allows us to live as a people of faith who reflect his presence in who we are and how we live each day. Bernard of Clairvaux, the 12th century Trappist monk, wrote a treatise on the love of God, reminding us of the importance of the two great commandments. One day Bernard received a letter from one of the monks telling Bernard how much he loved him and God. Bernard wrote back to the monk, reminding him that he couldn’t love God, much less Bernard, because he didn’t love himself. It was Bernard’s way of reminding the monk, and all of us, that loving ourselves is the beginning of being able to love others and God.Loving ourselves doesn’t make us conceited; it allows us to understand the impact that Jesus has in our lives so that we can go forward living as his followers, loving one another and our God who always calls us as his own. Jesus has given us an example and he invites us to do the same. HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!!FR. JOE

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