15th Sunday in Ordinary Time
There was a scholar of the Law who stood up to test Jesus and said, “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus said to him, “What is written in the law? How do you read it?” He said in reply, “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.” But because he wished to justify himself, he said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor? Luke 10:25-37
We go over the speed limit.
We text while driving.
We cheat at work. We exaggerate on our taxes.
Shoplifting something small. Drink too much before we drive.
Texting at the dinner table or when dining with someone.
We don’t complete our homework and we are in class.
You take on a job and realize that although you graduated with honors, you didn’t learn the material.
What is our number one concern?
Sometimes our behaviors are dangerous and can cause serious injury. But getting caught is our number one concern.
When we do get caught, we attempt to justify why we broke the law or can’t do the work. We blame, we squirm, we dig a deeper hole. Or like a good defense attorney, we find the loopholes. We get further and further away from the truth and ourselves.
Every Mass we come with gratitude and blessings.
We also come with a question similar to the scholar of the law.
“Jesus, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
Jesus throws the question right back at us. “You went through Catholic schools or a great confirmation class. You came into the church through RCIA. What is written in the Scriptures, how do you read it?”
We all answer the question intellectually correct. Some still answer as cradle Catholics or with the Baltimore Catechism. Some answer with a conservative, traditional or liberal bent.
We all answer correctly. “Do this and you will live.”
But then we attempt to justify ourselves because we got caught. It was only 5 mph over the limit.
We believe we love God with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our strength and with all our mind. We ask what is the minimum I need to do to get into heaven.
What does loving our neighbor with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our strength and with all our mind really mean?
How have you loved our neighbor who is often poor psychologically, physically, socially, emotionally and spiritually? Children are not born racist, violent, nor greedy. They are taught to be so. They do not have a choice. A puppy does not have a choice about whether they are mean or gentle. They simply reflect their master and their family. Behavior is automatic like stopping when the light turns red or crossing the street when we see trouble. But human beings have a choice. We choose a life in the Holy Spirit. But it takes great effort.
In the parable, we know nothing about the victim in the ditch except he was probably Jewish. We do know that Jesus loves this man in the ditch. That is why Jesus tells the story. He wants us to see him for who he is: God’s beloved son and our brother. St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta pleads with us that the poor and victims are Jesus in the distressing disguise. This victim probably had a family and friends. The ripple effect of this violent crime will carry for generations. We all have similar stories in our ancestry. How would the story be passed down if the man eventually died in the ditch? What if the antidote to violence in our world was mercy?
The victim’s grandchildren would tell the story of the merciful stranger who loved him out of the horrific hole he was in. Jesus was stripped, robbed, beaten and left for dead. Love prevented the story from being passed down as a tragedy. Jesus freed us from the bitterness. God loved us back to health. There will be times when we are in the ditch. I believe the victim and the Samaritan are no longer strangers. They are friends. The best of friends.
Jesus is in all victims: He is in the people escaping tyranny and war, immigrants, Honduran parents who empty their savings to send their children to avoid the gangs and drugs, drug addicts and those on the brink of suicide. Jesus is in Minnesota, in Louisiana, in Dallas, in Baghdad, in Turkey, in Brussels, in Paris, in Nigeria and Orlando.
The law will not get anyone into heaven. It just teaches us. After we graduate and clothed in the Holy Spirit, we must put our knowledge and skills to the test. God can heal the world, but he needs each of us to do our part, not just 10% which is the law. Christians are called to a much higher accountability because we live in the love of God. Love one another as our own son or daughter, father or mother.
We must love God, love self and love neighbor all equally. Love them equally and without judgment like the mother of nine children even if a couple of them forget to send a Mother’s Day card. We are one Body in Christ.
To love is to be compassionate with suffering and mercy.
Let Jesus help you to be more than you thought you were.
Bear fruit 30, 60 or even 100 fold. There are neighbors you will meet this week who are in the ditch. The grieving mother of a soldier or policeman, a community responding to hatred with insensible looting, a classmate whose depression has them on the brink, a woman who realizes her abortion is crippling her.
How we work here on earth for justice is how we work in heaven. We are instruments of God’s peace. What are we waiting for? With Jesus in our blood and heart we already experience the joys of heaven. This parable is a call. The harvest is great, but the merciful laborers are few.
May rivers of God’s Mercy flow through you every day.
May your neighbors become your beloved friends.
Mass is ended. Go in peace.
The Mass never ends, we take it with us!