Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, July 14
With God As Our Father, We Are All Brothers and Sisters to One Another; and in the Eyes of God, Each and Every Person Is Our Neighbor – Worthy of Our Love, Worthy of Our Mercy, Worthy of Our Compassion and Understanding.
“But because he wished to justify himself, he said to Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’”
There are few parables in the Gospels more familiar than the one we call “The Good Samaritan”. The dialogue that leads to the parable is important because it emphasizes that eternal life is not simply a matter of each of us loving God, but is also a matter of the love we have and exhibit for our neighbor.
This story also shows how we, as human beings –with our many imperfections – try to find ways to define who our neighbor is, in order to satisfy our prejudices and our inconveniences. And throughout the whole of human history, wars have been fought over human prejudices, and genocides have been perpetrated as a result of both fear and hatred.
Even in our own “backyard”, the poor and the disadvantaged are shunned and ignored because some see them as a blight and a social and economic disgrace in a land of plenty, a land in which resources abound.
Our Lord in today’s Gospel presents us with a Truth which makes many people uncomfortable. Even the legal scholar, when asked, “Which of these three, in your opinion, was neighbor to the robbers’ victim?”, could not respond with the word “Samaritan”. Instead, because of prejudicial feelings, he replied, “The one who treated him with mercy.”
In the beginning, we hear, in his questioning and counter-questioning with Jesus, this scholar of the law revealing a deep sensitivity to the Word of God. Unlike most of the other experts in Judaism, who were among Jesus’ most bitter opponents, this one got to the heart of the entire plan of God with two simple commands – love for God and love for neighbor.
In his answer, this scholar demonstrated what Moses told the Israelites centuries earlier in our First Reading today from the Book of Deuteronomy – the Word “is very near to you, already in your mouths and in your hearts” – not something that is far away or cannot be found.
He showed that the way of God is written, almost genetically if you will, within the impulses of our human nature. And, for this, the scholar won Jesus’ approval!
And today’s Gospel message is not hard for us to understand, either. It is not a complex set of theological formulas. We do not need years of education to get to its core. God has written His Truth in our hearts and in the depths of our conscience. We all know His Truth when it comes to loving God, and loving one another as we love ourselves!
But there is more to this passage than a conversation between Jesus and this learned scribe. Jesus not only told him that he was on the right track, he also said: “…do this and you will live.” And when it comes to caring for our neighbor, our Lord says, “Go and do likewise.”
Evidently, it is not enough for us to understand God’s Truth. Our understanding should lead us to embracing and living the Truth as well. As a result, today’s Gospel is just as demanding as it is simple!
The question then begs to be asked, just as the scribe asked today – who is our neighbor? The answer – everyone!
For people who suffer from prejudice – whether the prejudicial thinking is based upon racial bigotry or religious or ethnic intolerance – this concept of accepting everyone as our neighbor is very difficult to swallow.
And yet, it is for this very reason that our Lord gives us this parable. In essence, our Lord is teaching us through today’s Gospel that saying we are Christian does not mean that we are guaranteed eternal life.
If we knowingly turn our backs on those who are in most need, are we acting as Christ would act, or are we acting more like the priest or the Levite who went out of their way to walk down the opposite side of the road?
When you and I reflect upon the faith which we have been taught, did not Christ take upon Himself our humanity so that He might teach us what it truly means to be Christ-like in a society where greed and self-interest is not only popular, but accepted and oftentimes encouraged?
And did not Christ reach out to the sick and the infirm, the sinful and the leprous, in order to teach us the true meaning of selfless love and charity, the true meaning of compassion and mercy?
Sadly, we live in a society and in a culture which prides itself on self-centeredness and ego, a society which prides itself on selfishness and personal gain – oftentimes at the expense of the less fortunate, oftentimes at the expense of someone else becoming hurt.
There are many societies throughout the world which no longer wish to embrace the Christian message. There are many cultures throughout the world which find it an encumbrance and a burden to endorse and embrace the very concept of selflessness and compassionate mercy towards others.
They have chosen to forget and ignore the God who is the true Giver of all good gifts, the God who has given to each one of us the gift of life – all because God Loves us.
They have chosen to forget what Paul tells us today in our Second Reading from his Letter to the Colossians, “Christ Jesus is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation…He is before all things, and in him all things hold together…He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things he himself might be preeminent.”
And it is in His Preeminence that He calls each of us to be like Himself – in all that we think, in all that we say, in all that we do! When prejudicial thinking causes us to mistreat another fellow human being, or when such thinking causes us to take no action in caring for their needs, especially when they are suffering due to society’s ignorance, then we, as a society, have failed! We have forgotten what it truly means to be Christ-like and loving towards one another.
Our Lord is saying to each one of us today, “Go and do likewise.” In other words, become an extension of our Lord’s voice in today’s world; show to each other the compassion, the love, the mercy and understanding that Jesus Himself would show.
“I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.”
There was a time when I used to work with the homeless, those who are marginalized in our society – those who have been labeled as “invisible”, who suffer due to lack of food, lack of clothing, lack of shelter, lack of medical care.
The one thing that I learned, while working with them, is that every human being is deserving of love, every human being is a child of God and deserving of dignity and respect, no matter what their state in life may be.
If we are to respond to Jesus’ first Commandment, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind” – and if we truly call ourselves Christian, then how can we not respond to the other – “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
I oftentimes ask myself the question, especially after seeing the evening news or reading the headlines in the newspaper, “Why is it so difficult for people to love their neighbor? Why is it so difficult for some to find peace in their hearts and to share the joy of that peace with those who are less fortunate, or with those who are different from us?”
I am sure that we have all heard the age-old expression, “There, but for the grace of God, go I.”
With God as our Father, we are all brothers and sisters to one another! May we never forget that each and every person, no matter what their race, creed, color, political or religious persuasion may be – in the eyes of God, each and every person is our neighbor, worthy of our love, worthy of our mercy, worthy of our compassion and understanding!
May we see in each other Jesus Christ Himself, and may each person see Him in us – by the way we open our hearts and by the way we love.
Who is my neighbor? Everyone! For we are all children of the One Eternal Father!
May God bless you, God love you, and may God always keep you. †
Please Comment, Like and Share, and Suggest to your Facebook friends – to spread the message of God’s Merciful Love.
Por favor Comente, Le Gusta y Comparta, y Sugiera a tus amigos en Facebook – en difundir el mensaje del Misericordioso Amor de Dios.
Scripture for the Day
- “[A scholar of the law said], ‘You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.’ [Jesus] replied to him, ‘You have answered correctly; do this and you will live.’” (Luke 10:27-28)
- “But because he wished to justify himself, he said to Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’” (Luke 10:29)
- “‘Which of these three, in your opinion, was neighbor to the robbers’ victim?’ He answered, ‘The one who treated him with mercy.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Go and do likewise.’” (Luke 10:36-37)
- “For this command which I am giving you today is not too wondrous or remote for you…No, it is something very near to you, in your mouth and in your heart, to do it.” (Deuteronomy 30:11, 14)
- “So speak and so act as people who will be judged by the law of freedom. For the judgment is merciless to one who has not shown mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.” (James 2:12-13)
- “Christ Jesus is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation…He is before all things, and in him all things hold together…He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things he himself might be preeminent.” (Colossians 1:15, 17, 18b)
- “I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.” (John 13:15)
- “Jesus replied, ‘The first is this: ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.’” (Mark 12:29-31)
Prayer for the Day
“Eternal and Most Loving Father,
I submit my entire self to Your Holy will.
All that I am today, transform me into Your servant;
living Your Truth amongst my brothers and sisters.
“Thank You for imbuing me with Your Holy Spirit,
who guides me to live a life of righteousness,
enabling me to be all that You desire me to be,
so that I may give my best in service to Your children.
“Forgive me for my past failures,
rejecting the image of Christ in those around me.
In selfishness, I held back Your Love
and fell short in living the virtue of charity.
“Fill my heart with humility,
so that I may always fulfill Your will,
imitating the life of Your Son, Jesus,
giving love without counting the cost.
“In Jesus’ Name, I pray for this grace
for the glory of Your Divine Majesty,
in the Presence of the Holy Spirit,
and for the well-being of my soul for all eternity. Amen.”Anonymous