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Becoming Disciples of Jesus Christ by

Loving People + Discovering Hope + Following Jesus + Living the Eucharist


Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
 

Our God is about relationships. In the first reading, Moses reminds the Israelites that the laws, which are already in their hearts, keep them in right relationship with the God who loves them so much that they always find forgiveness. Centuries later, along comes Jesus, whom Paul describes to the Colossians as “the image of the invisible God,” the very embodiment of this God of love. In his parable about the good Samaritan, Jesus explains how the law of love overrules the letter of the law. Instead of answering the question “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus demonstrates that it is not about who is worthy of being loved, but rather loving as God loves—about being neighbor, about being the good Samaritan. Jesus wants us to continue his work as images of this God of love by loving all people, even those who seem to be our enemies.

Law and Order

Have you ever listened to someone giving a specific person a dose of reality and realized that you were also intended to “get it”? In today’s Gospel, Jesus is speaking to a know-it-all who seems to be baiting him, trying to see if Jesus has the theological wherewithal to be the great teacher he was said to be, asking about the requirements in the Law to gain eternal life. Jesus turns the tables and asks this lawyer, this expert, how he himself would answer the question. The lawyer states the obvious answer from the Law about loving God and one’s neighbor. But Jesus asks for more: Who is my neighbor? Does the Law answer this question?

In Deuteronomy, Moses spoke to the Israelites about the new Law, the Ten Commandments. At the time of Jesus, those ten “laws” had bloated into more than six hundred, requiring interpretation so that people could be obedient but unencumbered by the inevitable inconsistencies of such a vast set of regulations. Instead of the Law, Jesus answers with one of the most famous stories of all time: the “good” Samaritan. Here is where the plot thickens.

Can you hear me now?

On his way to Jerusalem, to the cross, Jesus and his disciples had recently passed through Samaria and found no welcome there, due to animosity between the two peoples. Jesus’ disciples wanted vengeance. So Jesus tells the story of how two strict adherents to the Law ignored the man who needed help, probably because of a slavish interpretation of the Law. A stranger from Samaria, who was seemingly little more than a heathen, treated the man with kindness and compassion. (Hey, disciples, did you hear that?)

Moses tried to tell the Israelites that the Law was already in their hearts. Jesus wanted the lawyer and the disciples—and us—to realize that the heart of the Law is a matter of our own hearts. That is where we know our neighbor—everyone.


 


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