The Fifteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time
[Scripture Readings: Deut 30: 10-14; Col 1: 15-20; Lk 10: 25-37]
When the Roman matron Proba asked St. Augustine what she should pray for, he answered happiness. Everyone wants to be happy. Of course we have different ideas about what would make us happy, but we share a desire for more than bare existence. We desire a full and joyful life. In religious terms we desire the joy of a blessed life.
We can easily identify with the scribe who asks Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life. He is not simply asking for a long life. He is asking for fullness of life. We may find Jesus’ response asking what the scribe reads in the law something of a let down. Our attitude toward law tends to be ambivalent. We can see the need for law, but at times we also experience it as a constraint on our lives. Jewish torah goes beyond our understanding of law as impersonal rules and regulations. Torah was God’s instruction on how to live a full and blessed life. In presenting the law Moses told the Hebrews, “I set before you life and death. Choose life.” Torah was not only a guide for life. It was a guide to life. It was not something extrinsic to the believing Jew. He carried it in his heart. Jesus directed the scribe to look at his own experience and what he already knew. When he did this the scribe answered his own question. Then why the need for the parable?
As most of us learn in one way or another there is more to knowing than knowing. How often have we known what to do in a particular situation, but we didn’t do it? We were too busy. We didn’t have time. We simply were indifferent to another’s need. We had knowledge, but we lacked love.
The priest and the Levite in this morning’s parable knew the law. They were the authorities on the law, but it wasn’t in their hearts. They were indifferent not only to the suffering of another human being. They were indifferent to the suffering of their own brother. The Samaritan was excluded from the law, but he manifested the law of God written in his heart; a law that transcends political, ethnic and religious boundaries. He had compassion for another human being in distress and he translated his knowledge into behavior.
In order to find life Jesus told the scribe to go and do the same. He says that to us also. He tells us to love those who make life difficult for us, those who get on our nerves, those we would like to shut out of our lives. Too often we think that we can enhance life by accumulating things and knowledge for ourselves to use for our own advantage. The gospel tells us that we enhance our lives by going out of ourselves in compassion. How much we have doesn’t matter. Are we willing to share what we have?
Jesus Christ is the image of the invisible God and he shows us how to love as God loves. Jesus came not to be served, but to serve, to serve whoever was in distress without discrimination. Jesus Christ is the head of the body. We are the members. Let us follow our head into the glory of eternal life.