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Sunday Sharing

The Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

 

I’m sure many of us have heard the excuses or rational for why people do not come to church or why they do not feel the need to pray on a regular basis. I think Jesus’ response to the lawyer was pretty simple and direct. "Go and do likewise."   Our Catholic faith and teachings are very deep and rich in traditions, and yet the foundation and teachings of Jesus all come down to this; "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself."

It’s taken me a life-time to really understand and put into practice every day, what Jesus is telling this man. And yet, I am positive that while I continue to open my mind, my heart and my life to “Loving God and my neighbor”, I still have many miles and trials to go, to even begin to scratch the surface of what God’s love is and what it can do in my life and the lives of my brothers and sisters.

Have you ever asked the question; If God is all-loving and compassionate, then why is there so much suffering and evil in this world? Many agnostics refuse to believe in God because of this seemingly imponderable problem. If God is love then evil and suffering must be eliminated in all its forms. What is God's answer to this human dilemma? Jesus' parable about a highway robbery gives us a helpful hint. Jesus told this dramatic story in response to a devout Jew who wanted to understand how to apply God's great commandment of love to his everyday life circumstances. In so many words this religious-minded Jew said: "I want to love God as best as I can and I want to love my neighbor as well. But how do I know that I am fulfilling my duty to love my neighbor as myself?" 

Jesus must have smiled when he heard this man challenge him to explain one's duty towards their neighbor. For the Jewish believer the law of love was plain and simple: "treat your neighbor as you would treat yourself." The real issue for this believer was the correct definition of who is "my neighbor".  He understood "neighbor" to mean one's fellow Jew who belonged to the same covenant which God made with the people of Israel. Up to a certain point, Jesus agreed with this sincere expert but, at the same time, he challenged him to see that God's view of neighbor went far beyond his narrow definition.

Our current situation at our southern boarders, the tensions in our cities and neighborhoods over race and gender seem to have narrowed our scope of “Who is my neighbor”? Jesus told a parable to show how wide God's love and mercy is towards every fellow human being. Jesus' story of a brutal highway robbery was all too familiar to his audience.

What does Jesus' story tell us about true love for our neighbors? First, we must be willing to help even if others brought trouble on themselves through their own fault or negligence. Second, our love and concern to help others in need must be practical. Good intentions and showing pity, or empathizing with others, are not enough. And lastly, our love for others must be as wide and as inclusive as God's love. God excludes no one from his care and concern. God's love is unconditional. So we must be ready to do good for others for their sake, just as God is good to us. 

Let us not forget that our own troubles and those of our close family and friends are paramount. We know and believe that Jesus truly identifies with our plight, and he took the burden of our sinful condition upon himself. He showed us the depths of God's love and compassion, by sharing in our suffering and by offering his life as an atoning sacrifice for our sins upon the cross. His suffering is redemptive because it brings us healing, it brings us restoration and the fullness of eternal life. God offers us true freedom from every form of oppression, sin, and suffering. Are we doing enough to deserve this love? Are we ready to embrace the cross of Christ, to suffer for his sake, and as importantly, are we willing to see and share in the suffering and love of Christ in the plight and troubles of our brothers and sister in Christ? Listen to the word of God, “If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete. This is my commandment: love one another as I love you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

 

Deacon Joseph Yannotta