Monday in the Twenty-Seventh Week of Ordinary Time at Mississippi Abbey

Scripture Readings:  Gal 1:6-12;  Lk 10:25-37

“Go and do likewise” is Jesus’ instruction for how to be His disciple. To “Do likewise,” in today’s gospel, means to show mercy. That is the distinguishing mark of a disciple. It is a form of love -of promoting the good of the other – that shows one is a Christian. To do this requires a transformation of heart and identity.

This transformation is necessary because being a disciple of Jesus Christ is the highest form of determining who we will be. Such self-determination is our dignity. Dignity is had by one’s free choice of what is good. One can, by her way of life, settle for what merely satisfies or one can live toward the good itself. That is not easily done, so God does it through the effect of life-events on our hearts and our self-understanding. Through the spirit of Christ these events give us the power and the motivation to “go and do likewise.” We can either try to control such events to our satisfaction or we can let them work and meet them with faithfulness to God’s way of life. That is why transformation is not accomplished; it is suffered.

Tonight, Jesus tells us that the good is love and that since love is to be freely given to God and neighbor, it is best shown to others as it was shown to each of us: by showing mercy.

In this gospel the mercy is shown by an act, not a good intention. One acts toward an object and that object must be capable of being ordered to God. Mercy toward neighbor is such an object.

This transformation of heart and identity through self-determining acts for the sake of others relies on one prior condition: a personal encounter with Jesus Christ. That personal encounter will leave a lasting impression that one has been shown mercy. Recall what it did for Matthew, the tax collector, the woman caught in adultery, and the Samaritan woman. It changed their whole way of perceiving what is good, of disposing the self to the good of God and neighbor, and of understanding the self as being about service to others on behalf of the Father. They will sense that they are sensitive to the world’s needs and not just their own. That is the impact of an encounter with the mercy of Christ. It increases charity. Having received His spirit, one will want to pass it on. Then she’ll be a disciple.    


Monday in the Twenty-Seventh Week of Ordinary Time at Mississippi Abbey

Scripture Readings: Jonah 1:1-2:2, 11);  Luke 10:25-37

It was a bleak day in Moscow in 1944. Twenty-thousand German prisoners-of-war were being marched across Red square. The mood was grim and angry. Most of the Russian spectators had had a husband, brother, father or other loved one killed in the conflict with the Germans. The crowd had to be restrained from attacking the prisoners. They had to settle for jeering and spitting on them. Prisoners hobbled on crutches or were wrapped in blood-soaked bandages. They were exhausted, starved, and humiliated.

And then one woman broke through the cordon, a piece of black bread in her hand. It was from her own kitchen and she could hardly afford to give it away. She thrust it into the hands of a German prisoner. Others saw her do this. They had bread in their homes. They suddenly saw a human being behind the enemy uniform. As poor people they could identify with the afflicted. They too broke through the lines to give what bread they could. The scene of scorn turned into one of human compassion. A bleak moment in human history turned into one of transformation.

We are told that the Samaritan was “moved with compassion.” He was affected; moved from indifference to compassion.  This distinguished him from the priest and the Levite. The Samaritan was moved; the priest and Levite were not. The robbers beat the man, left him naked and apparently dead. The priest and Levite would avoid contact with a naked dead body as it would render them unclean. The Samaritan, apparently one who engaged in trade and got rich at the expense of others (rich enough to pay the innkeeper), was similarly despised and avoided. One outcast helped another because he was moved by him.

It is the depth of love that is striking. It is the depth that is distinguishing. It is the depth of love, then, to which Jesus is inviting the scholar of the law. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, strength, being, and mind…and your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus tells this parable in response to the question, “And who is my neighbor?” It would seem to be one with whom we identify.

Communities are formed around a shared affection. Empathy is a form of being affected. It is pre-requisite for showing mercy.  Jesus seems to be telling us that knowledge of our vulnerability, of our brokenness underlies any affection for the Father. And that shared knowledge, based on experience, is the foundation for our shared affection for our Creator, Savior, and Sanctifier. Vulnerability and affliction can unite us…if we let it.

The Samaritan –and the woman in Red Square- represents Jesus, scorned by the religious establishment, identified with the poor and infirm. And He tells us, “Go and do likewise.”