C Cycle – 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time 19
Lk. 10: 25-37
What must I do to obtain eternal life? It is a common question each of us in our quest for holiness. Often what we find ourselves doing is trying not to mess up our chances of being judged worthy of the promises of God. This leads us to depend on the law as a gauge of our holiness.
Moses today reveals something critical to how God views us, and it goes beyond just adherence to the law. We miss this valuable lesson because many of us do not read the scriptures, and even if we do read them, we neglect to take the time to reflect on them. For that reason, we miss God’s desire to provide a means for our holiness and it does not depend on our strength to overcome sin.
Moses tells us God’s plan for our holiness is not hidden from us, it is not so mysterious that we must seek wisdom from any other source because what we must do is written on our hearts. Keep in mind, Moses was given the wisdom to reveal this to us long before God promised to write His law on our hearts (Jer. 31:33).
It is a simple formula that has two parts, one being listening to the voice of God and the second is to follow the law written on our hearts. It seems to me; we spend all our time trying to follow the law as we understand it and we fail in the key element of listening to the voice of God.
Listen to the pious answer of the “scholar of the law” as he seeks the key to obtaining eternal life. Jesus recites the first and greatest commandment is to love God with all our hearts, minds and strength and the second is our neighbor. Note how easy it is to focus on one aspect of the law and not the other. To the “law keepers” all we must do is demonstrate our love of God by acts of piety which are visible signs of holiness.
That is the easy part of our faith journey since all it takes is discipline and a fear of God’s wrath. It is the second part of that command to love neighbor that is the hardest. This is why the scholar of the law sought clarification because he needed to make sure he was following the law as he understood it. This parable shows us how much we overlook what God truly requires of us. This parable has layers which reveal the demands of discipleship are more stringent and more challenging than we want to go. It is easier for us to stay focused on the written laws rather than those written on our hearts.
Both Moses and Jesus are challenging us to “heed the voice of the Lord” which will always lead us to both following the law written in the book of the law and written on our hearts. What Jesus reveals to us in the parable of the Good Samaritan is how easy it is for piety to obscure the path to eternal life which is how we live the law of love and not worry about our standing with God.
Jesus in his own words challenged us to go beyond the law. If someone strikes you on the cheek, offer his the other. If you look at another lustfully, you have committed adultery in your hearts. If they take you cloak offer them your shirt as well.
In Matthews gospel chapter 25 he gives us a list of what we are judged on and what God judges us on will go far beyond the requirements of the law. Did you offer a cup of water to one who thirsts, did you visit the sick or imprisoned, or have we been so intent on our interpretation of holiness we ignored those who we could have touched and by touching them reveal the heart of God to them.
Those are harsh words we seem to lose sight of them because we are more intent on what we think all we have to do is follow the rules. If we take the time to listen to God before we decide to act, we would discover how to become disciples. You can see this in the response of those involved in the parable of the Good Samaritan.
All we know about the priest and the Levite is they were on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho. Both were in service to the temple (Lk.1:8) and we do not know if they were on their way to serve or returning to Jericho after serving. What we do know is they ignored someone who was in obvious need.
We can assume the person lying there bleeding, half dead was Jew and we know from the law if the priest or Levite touched him, they would have been declared unclean and wherever they were going they did not have time for the ritual purification. We do not know their motivation for ignoring him, but it seems they crossed to the other side so as not to be delayed by the time it would take to help him. Logic demanded by the law instead of acting out of “compassion.”
But the Samaritan, a man with a different theology as we learned from the woman at the well, despised by the Jews because Samaritans were Jews mixed with gentile lineage, yet this outcast is the one moved by the law written on our hearts. This would have been a shocking parable to the Jews. In many ways it was reminding them of how their piety is worth nothing at the time of judgment. in the eyes of Go
The Samaritan could have been on a time schedule that was also critical to his journey that day. Yet he ignored his own needs to assist another. Not only did he give of his time he pays to have him cared for and promised to stop on the way back to make sure he recovered, and the inn keeper was not out a cent.
We need to pay attention to the call to go beyond ourselves and our understanding of how a “righteous person “follows God’s will and we must instead begin to listen to God and His promptings. Jesus said that clearly to us as he reminded us “it is not those who act in the name of God and call upon his name shall enter the kingdom of God but those who do the will of His Father (Mt. 7:21).