|Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary
Psalms 69:14, 17, 30-31, 33-34, 36, 37
or Psalms 19:8, 9, 10, 11
In the Book of Deuteronomy, from which we hear todayís First Reading, Moses is placing before his people, not merely laws, but ways by which his people will remain God's people. The regulations and customs prescribed there in are meant to specify the relationship which the Jewish people are to continue with the God of their Exodus.
We hear today two important aspects of this Holy Law, holy way of living. Those who are in a communal or cultic relationship with God must love God with all their heart and soul. Moses then reminds his hearers that this way of looking at life is not so strange to them that they have to seek beyond themselves for assistance in understanding. They need no experts or people of wisdom, but rather they are to journey inside into their own hearts. Crossing the sea or climbing mountains might be easier than reading or listening to the longings each one has for loving God.
The Gospel for today is a familiar picture of Jesus and a lawyer who wishes to test Him. While he knows the Law of Moses and the meaning of that law in his own heart, he probes Jesus and His interpretation. Jesus responds by asking the scholar how he read it.
Jesus agrees with the manís reading which includes loving oneís neighbor as a part of living the whole Law. Then the lawyer asked about who his neighbor might be. Jesus then tells the famous story about the Samaritan who had compassion on a Jewish man who had been both beaten and neglected by two Jewish religious leaders, a Priest and a Levite. Jews disliked Samaritans to the point of not even considering them distant neighbors. They were nothing!
The lawyer was convicted and Jesus said, ďGo and do likewise.Ē Loving God involves receiving Godís love personally and deeply first and then loving ourselves because of Godís love for us. Ah, but this has one more aspect. What do we do with our loved-self? It is when we have accepted being so loved that we love God by extending Godís love as far as our negative shadow once stretched. That is, we can boldly not pass by on the other side, but reveal Jesusí compassion even to those whom we once feared.
I remember quite clearly the moment I realized that I loved my very first girlfriend more than I experienced love for my own mother. How could this be? I had always loved my mother since I understood that she cooked dinner. I felt love deep in my heart for Beverly and yet, somewhere, too deep to feel, I knew the goodness and love of my mom. Fortunately I never told either about how I felt. Beverly faded out of the picture and my mother stayed to cook many more meals.
Loving God with all our heart and soul is a terribly difficult and maybe impossible feeling. I have affections for more people more often than I experience for God, Trinity and all the other holy aspects of God. How then do I live this same split that I had with Beverly and my mother?
Loving God means letting God have compassion on me more than the Samaritan had for the robbed and stripped man. As that beaten fellow had to accept being cared for and healed, so I pray with the reality of how God loves me in my condition, no matter what it is.
Being so loved then leads me to a freedom to love more than was possible when I did not accept being loved. I could even love Beverly now and not feel guilt or embarrassment about how little affection I might feel for God. Apparently God does not want to be loved in the abstract, but in the flesh of Christís brothers and sisters. It is easier perhaps to love God in thought, but more sacred to love God in person.
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