Sunday Sermon for July 10, 2022, the Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C

Readings: Deut 30:10-14; Col 1:15-20; Lk 10:25-37

In the first reading we hear Moses make a very sad and impassioned plea to the people of Israel: “If only you would heed the voice of the Lord, your God, and keep his commandments and statutes…”  If only.  Clearly Moses wants what is best for the people, but the people had proven that they did not necessarily want what was best for themselves.  It is easy to understand this because we pray daily for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in Heaven.  First and foremost, this means we want His will to be done in our lives.  Objectively this may be true, but on the subjective level, we are very much attached to our own will, and we often choose our will over God’s will.

In saying this, we must be clear that this does not necessarily mean that we are choosing something bad or sinful.  It simply means that we prefer our own will to God’s will.  But, what would it look like if we really chose God’s will?  What would it look like if we kept the commandments and statutes of the Lord?  It would be exactly what we see in the Gospel reading where our Lord approves the insight of the scholar who states what the Law requires in order to inherit eternal life: love the Lord with our whole heart, mind, strength, and being; and love our neighbor as our self.

We might say that we love the Lord and we love the people around us, so we are therefore doing what God has said.  However, the context of the Gospel makes clear that the love being spoken of is not just an emotional love; rather, it is a love that must be acted upon and lived out in practice.  When the man who was beaten by robbers was ignored by the priest and the Levite, he was treated with compassion by a Samaritan.  The inference here is that the priest and the Levite probably loved the Lord, they probably loved their family members and their immediate neighbors, but when it came to helping this man who was left half-dead, they did not have the charity necessary to love him with their whole heart.

On the other hand, Jesus uses the example of a Samaritan, whom the Jewish people despised and regarded as heretics, as one who showed true charity to the man in need.  It cost him time, effort, and money to help the man, but there is no indication that he felt any bitterness about this.  If the man were acting just on the natural level, he might have thought it was good to see his enemy in difficult straits.  However, the man acted in a supernatural way to look beyond the tensions and even hatred that existed between Jews and Samaritans, and he treated the man with true charity.

As Christian people, acting in a supernatural way should be easy for us.  After all, the graces we received in baptism raise us to a supernatural level of being and acting.  So as children of the Lord and partakers of the divine nature, charity should be the primary virtue expressed in our lives.  Unfortunately, we all know that even with the graces we have been given, being charitable is sometimes very difficult.

Jesus taught us to love our enemies.  Obviously, this does not come naturally to us.  So how do we do this?  In the second reading, St. Paul tells us Jesus is the firstborn of all creation, that everything was created through Him and for Him, He is the Head of the body, and that in Him all things hold together.  This gives us the means by which and for which we are to act in charity toward others.

When St. Teresa of Calcutta was asked how she could care for people who were abused, abandoned, starving, and sick, she simply said she saw Jesus in these people and cared for Him in them.  We recall that our Lord told us that whatever we do to the least of our brothers we do to Him.  Every person is made in His image and likeness; every baptized person is a member of Christ and a child of God.  Therefore, if we are going to love each person as God does, then we need to look beyond the surface, beyond what is natural, and see the Lord love the Lord in the person. 

Sadly, many of us have covered up the image of our Lord, but He is still there.  We must make the choice to see Him and love Him in others.  This is truly loving God and neighbor.  Now, if only we would heed the voice of God and keep His commandments: love God and love neighbor!

Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit www.thewandererpress.com.

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