18th Sunday, O T Year C – 16

18th Sunday, O T Year C – 16

Eccl.1:2, 2:21-23/ Col.3: 1-5, 9-11/ Lk.12:13-21

There are many lessons in life that we keep learning over and over again. One lesson that life always teaches us is that we won’t appreciate something until we lose it. So it may be something precious, or it may be a pet, or it may be someone dear to us.

The sudden loss will embark us on an immediate and frantic search. And depending on how precious it is to us, our hearts and minds may not be at rest until we find it. But there are some things that are lost gradually and over a long period of time.

So much so that we don’t really notice it or miss it too much (until it is too late!) Well, one thing that I can think of, and it affects men as well as women, is hair loss. Oh yes, that crowning glory on our heads that we spend time in front of the mirror, combing, brushing, styling and even coloring (dyeing).

What started off as a full head of hair slowly thins along the years, and especially for men, there is the balding, or receding hair-line. Well, everything happens for a reason, but if we can’t understand it then at least, we can try to laugh at it.

A joke has it that a little boy was having his breakfast and then he asked his mother, “Mummy, Mummy, why does Daddy has so few hairs on his head?” His mother replied, “Because he thinks a lot.” And she was quite pleased with herself for coming up with such a quick answer.

Or so she thought, until the boy asked, “So Mummy, why do you have so much hair?” But whether there is plenty of hair or no hair, the 1st reading would call it as vanity. But whether it is about hair or look, it is just one of the vanities. There is also this vanity of vanities.

In the gospel, Jesus would put a name to this vanity of vanities. He calls it “avarice” which is the extreme greed for wealth and material gains. It all began when Jesus refused a request from a man to be a judge or arbitrator over the sharing of inheritance with his brother.

Jesus then took the opportunity to expose the cause of this fight over the sharing of inheritance. In fact, it is not just about the fight over inheritance, it is about the desire and craving for material gains, whether rightfully or otherwise.

Jesus then told a parable that will certainly make us think and even lose some hairs. But what is hair-raising is when God appears in the parable and says to the rich man: Fool! This very night the demand will be made for your soul, and this hoard of yours, whose will it be then?

If someone were to call us a fool, it is a great insult. But if God were to call us a fool, then it would be the greatest tragedy. And Jesus would tell us what a fool is – a fool is someone who stores up treasures for himself in place of making himself rich in the presence of God.

St. Paul likewise gives us wise advice found in today’s second reading when he tells us we should rid ourselves of immorality, impurity, passion, lustful desires and all of the fool’s gold offered us by the worldly. Why?

Because in the long run all such things are worthless and empty and all of our energies devoted to those things will be vain. Is lusting the path to happiness? What will it all mean and what value will it have when we meet Christ face to face?

We live in a very competitive world, a world that tells us we are really somebody when we are popular, when we have clothes or money, or look more beautiful than others, a world that judges our value on what we have or how we appear.

Our professions, the advertising industry¸ the world of fashion, and even our academic institutions are all built on measures of value that have nothing to do with how God sees us and values us. Who does not want to be Number One?

Who among us in our competitive world does not want to come out on top? Who among us does not want to be the most popular? But the question you need to face and I need to face is: Who is measuring our value?

In the end, like the man Jesus was talking about in today’s Gospel account, the man who was so concerned about the things of this world, we may hear God saying to us: ‘You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?’

Jesus gives us fair warning in telling us: Thus will it be for all who store up treasure for themselves but are not rich in what matters to God.” On the day we die, what can we give back to God that came to us from this life, a life that He gave to you and to me? Will it be our real estate holdings?

A big bank account? Our popularity? Fine clothes? A fancy car? Death, the great leveler, will render what this world values to be valueless. Vanity of vanities, says Qoheleth, vanity of vanities! All things are vanity!

We have heard of Alexander the Great. Legend has it that knowing that his end is near, he called his generals and said, “I will depart from this world soon, but I have three wishes and they must be carried out without fail.”

“Firstly, my physicians alone must carry my coffin. Secondly, when my coffin is being carried to the grave, the path leading to the grave will be strewn with all the gold and silver and precious stones that I have collected.”

“Finally, my last wish is that both my hands be kept dangling out of my coffin.” His generals assured him that his three wishes would be fulfilled, but they would like to know why those three strange wishes, and so he explained.

“I want my physicians to carry my coffin because people should realize that no doctor can cure every illness. They are powerless and cannot save a person from the clutches of death. So let people not take life for granted.

As for strewing the gold and silver and other riches along the way to the grave, that is to tell people that not even a fraction of gold will come with me. I spent all my life gaining riches but cannot take anything with me. Let people realize that it is a sheer waste of time to chase wealth.

And about my third wish of having my hands dangling out of the coffin, I want people to know that I came empty handed into this world and empty handed I will go out of this world.” And with those final words, Alexander the Great closed his eyes and breathed his last.

God wants us to die rich; He wants us to give Him a life that has value, a life that was lived well, rich in meaning and not lived in vain. What He wants and what we can give Him, regardless of our economic position or our social status, is a spirit, a soul that is richly adorned with attitudes and personality characteristics that are similar to those of Jesus Christ.

So from Alexander the Great, we learn those lessons about life. We learn that life and health are gifts from God. We must take care of it and yet we must realize that we cannot live forever nor be healthy always. We are only human, frail and weak.

We also learn that riches and wealth are only meaningful when they are shared with others. Riches and wealth are not only for “me”, they are for “we”.  And finally, what you do for yourself dies with you, but what you do for others, lives on and makes you rich in the sight of God.

Yes, these are the lessons about life. Let us learn these lessons from life, rather than be taught a lesson by death. The difference between life and death is like a hair-line difference, but it is a difference between now and forever.

So let us learn the lesson of life from the parable of Jesus, so that we know how to live now, as well as forever. Amen.

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17th Sunday, O T Year C – 16

17th Sunday, O T Year C – 16

Gen.18:20-32/ Col.2:12-14/ Lk.11:1-13

Two young boys were spending the night at their rich grandma’s house during Christmas. She was getting them ready for bed, and reminded them to say their prayers. Grandma left the boys alone and went into the next room before coming back to tuck them in.

The older of the two said his prayers, thanking God and asking Him to bless grandma, his friends and family. Then, it was his younger brother’s turn. He offered the same prayer as his big brother, but at the end of the prayer, he shouted in a very loud voice, “And God, please send me a new scooter and a CD player.”

His older brother turned and said, “You don’t have to shout. God isn’t deaf.” “I know,” the younger one replied. “But Grandma is.” The main themes of today’s Scripture readings are the power of intercessory prayer, the Our Father as the ideal prayer, and the necessity for persistence and perseverance in prayer with trusting faith and boldness.

In short, they teach us what to pray and how to pray. The first reading, taken from the book of Genesis, gives us the model for intercessory prayer provided by Abraham in his dialogue with God. Although Abraham seems to be trying to manipulate God through his skillful bargaining and humble, persistent intercession, God is actually being moved to mercy by the goodness of a few innocent souls.

For those of you who have traveled abroad, particularly to the Middle East and perhaps even to the Holy Land, the account of Abraham bargaining with God will not appear to be strange. Haggling is an art form, particularly in a Middle Eastern market.

Abraham’s intercessory bargaining reveals the value of only one just man’s prayers along with the value God places on the life of just one righteous man. Furthermore, the story reveals that Abraham is on good terms with God.

One not on good terms with God would ever dare to approach God in this manner. Abraham, however, could. He was not estranged from God. He was on good terms and so could bargain and haggle with God in the finest of Middle Eastern business practices. He haggles with the best of them.

Abraham’s situation is different from ours. The problem in our day is that we are indifferent. The problem faced by priests, ministers, and rabbis in our culture is not the problem of unbelief. Nor is it necessarily the problem of sin. No. Our problem is the problem of indifference.

It’s not that people are atheists or agnostics. It’s not that people have actively rejected God and defied God by sinning. No. It’s that people simply don’t care. They’re indifferent. For them, God does not matter.

If you want to insult someone, the greatest possible insult you can render is to return a gift given to you unused. If you really want to reject someone, send their gift to you back to them. It tells them: “I don’t need you. I don’t need your friendship or your love — I don’t need anything you could possibly give me.” In other words: “You are for me a non-person!”

Not to pray is to show your indifference toward God. Not to pray is to send His gift back to Him. Jesus taught us how to pray in the simplest of terms. There’s nothing mysterious or mumbo-jumbo about it.

In the Gospel passage, after teaching a model prayer, Jesus instructs his disciples to pray to God their Heavenly Father with the same boldness, daring, intimacy, conviction, persistence and perseverance like Abraham.

The prayer Jesus taught us is utterly simple in its expression of what we need from God and what our response to Him should be. It tells us we need to honor Him, that we need our daily bread, that we need forgiveness, that we need the strength to give forgiveness to others.

And that we need God’s protection in times of temptation and trial. Not to use it, not to pray it, is to say to God: “You don’t have anything I need or want.”

Prayer acknowledges that you have a relationship with God. Consequently, the quality of your prayer is correlative to the value you place on your relationship with God. Abraham took God seriously — so seriously that Abraham haggled and bargained with God over the value of what was to be delivered.

Prayer is essential for Christian family life. To remain faithful (in any vocation) in marriage, the spouses must pray, not only individually, but together. They must thank God and offer intercessory prayers for each other, for their children and for their dear ones.

Daily prayer will help married couples to celebrate and reverence God’s vision of human sexuality and honor life from conception to natural death. Here is St. John Marie Vianney’s advice to a couple:

“Spend three minutes praising and thanking God for all you have. Spend three minutes asking God’s pardon for your sins and presenting your needs before Him. Spend three minutes reading the Bible and listening to God in silence. And do this, every day.”

Let not lame excuses turn us away from prayer. Modern Christians give four lame excuses for not praying. The first excuse: We are too busy. Often the first thing given up by a busy Christian is his prayer life, thus disconnecting himself from the real source of spiritual power.

A second excuse: We don’t believe that prayer does that much good, other than giving us psychological motivation to be better persons. Prayer establishes and augments our relationship with God, the source of our power.

A third excuse: A loving God should provide for us and protect us without our asking Him. Prayer expresses our awareness of our need for God and our dependence on Him. A fourth excuse: Prayer is boring. It is never boring if we learn to talk to God and listen to Him.

Do we take God seriously? Do we need God? I think we should. I think we need a higher power in order to extract ourselves from sinking further into the quicksand as we thrash about, sinking further and further down. I think we need our daily bread — the Bread of Life along with all those daily gifts that nourish and strengthen us. I think we need that which causes us to grow as persons.

If prayer is to change anything at all, it is to change us, to change our minds, to change our attitudes, to change the way we live. Genuine prayer puts us at God’s disposal. It allows us to see what God dreamed we could be when He created us in the first place.

Ask yourself what is more real, the self you see, or the self, God sees? The self, God sees is what we can be, not what we have been, or done, or accomplished. Prayer, in other words, takes hold of God’s presence and gives us power over ourselves, not over God.

Prayer gives us the chance to see ourselves in God’s eyes and therefore to live with self-respect, to live in peace, and to live with the power not only to change ourselves but also the power to heal, love, and free others so they can see themselves in the same Light of God. Prayer liberates us.

The Mass we celebrate is in itself a prayer. Not to pray it, is to show God our indifference. To turn Sunday Mass into something that is only optional is to tell God that for us He is only optional.

And as for the value of only one Righteous Man, Jesus, — well that’s precisely why we are here, together offering His life for ourselves and others to the God of Abraham. Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For those of you who have traveled abroad, particularly to the Middle East and perhaps even to the Holy Land, the account of Abraham bargaining with God will not appear to be strange. Haggling is an art form, particularly in a Middle Eastern market. Abraham’s intercessory bargaining reveals the value of only one just man’s prayers along with the value God places on the life of just one righteous man. The Jews, you see, have always known that the prayer of just one righteous man holds a lot of value with God and that the life of such a man is “worth his weight in gold” as the market place phrase goes. Abraham knows exactly how to bargain with God so that God will spare the people of Sodom for the sake of just one man living there.

Furthermore, the story reveals that Abraham is on good terms with God. One not on good terms with God would ever dare to approach God in this manner. Abraham, however, could. He was not estranged from God. He was on good terms and so could bargain and haggle with God in the finest of Middle Eastern business practices. He haggles with the best of them.

Abraham’s situation is different from ours. The problem in our day is that we are indifferent. The problem faced by priests, ministers, and rabbis in our culture is not the problem of unbelief. Nor is it necessarily the problem of sin. No. Our problem is the problem of indifference. It’s not that people are atheists or agnostics. It’s not that people have actively rejected God and defied God by sinning. No. It’s that people simply don’t care. They’re indifferent. For them, God does not matter.

If you want to insult someone, the greatest possible insult you can render is to return a gift given to you unused. If you really want to reject someone, send their gift to you back to them. It tells them: “I don’t need you. I don’t need your friendship or your love — I don’t need anything you could possibly give me.” In other words: “You are for me a non-person!”

Not to pray is to show your indifference toward God. Not to pray is to send His gift back to Him. Jesus taught us how to pray in the simplest of terms. There’s nothing mysterious or mumbo-jumbo about it. The prayer Jesus taught us is utterly simple in its expression of what we need from God and what our response to Him should be. It tells us we need to honor Him, that we need our daily bread, that we need forgiveness, that we need the strength to give forgiveness to others, and that we need God’s protection in times of temptation and trial. Not to use it, not to pray it, is to say to God: “You don’t have anything I need or want.”

Prayer acknowledges that you have a relationship with God. Consequently, the quality of your prayer is correlative to the value you place on your relationship with God. Abraham took God seriously — so seriously that Abraham haggled and bargained with God over the value of what was to be delivered. There was something very serious at stake here, so Abraham got serious with God.

Do we take God seriously? Do we need God? I think we should. I think we need a higher power in order to extract ourselves from sinking further into the quicksand as we thrash about, sinking further and further down. I think we need our daily bread — the Bread of Life along with all those daily gifts that nourish and strengthen us. I think we need that which causes us to grow as persons. And I daresay each and every soul here in this church will admit they need forgiveness.

If prayer is to change anything at all, it is to change us — to change our minds, to change our attitudes, to change the way we live. Genuine prayer puts us at God’s disposal. It allows us to see what God dreamed we could be when He created us in the first place. Ask yourself what is more real, the self you see, or the self God sees? The self God sees is what we can be, not what we have been, or done, or accomplished. Prayer, in other words, takes hold of God’s presence and gives us power over ourselves, not over God. Prayer gives us the chance to see ourselves in God’s eyes and therefore to live with self-respect, to leave in peace, and to live with the power not only to change ourselves but also the power to heal, love, and free others so they can see themselves in the same Light of God. Prayer liberates us.

 

 

 

 

In his letter to the Romans St. Paul put it beautifully when he wrote:

For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the spirit of sonship. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” it is the Spirit himself bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God and creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the glorious liberty of the children of God. (Romans 8)

Do we need the strength, the fortitude, and the guts to forgive someone in our lives who has deeply wounded and hurt us? You bet we do. Do we need to have the willingness to forgive others? Yes! For each one of us there is someone in our lives who has hurt us so much that only an act of God can give us the will and the power to forgive them.

 

Are we held in the steel grip of habit and addiction, a particular temptation that conquers us and snatches away our soul every time it afflicts us? Are we threatened by something terrible that will hurt us — by an evil that seriously threatens our well-being? Everyone here knows that is so in some aspect of their life. We all know that we have been tried and found wanting. We all know that when we face that trial again we will succumb unless the power of God comes to us and helps us out of the quicksand that sucks us down ever more deeply and ever more powerfully to the point that we will suffocate in it.

 

16th Sunday O T Year C – 16

16th Sunday O T Year C – 16

Gen.18:1-10/ Col.1:24-28/ Lk.10:38-42

 

Hospitality, presence, and being personally attentive. All of these are qualities of character that should be a part of our living in relationships with others. In today’s readings the theme that comes to my mind is that of hospitality, hospitality in the sense of personal presence, an openness of heart that allows guests into the inner home of our hearts and souls.

The central themes of today’s readings are the importance of hospitality in Christian life and the necessity of listening to God before acting. The key to the Christian life is setting priorities: Jesus Christ first, then everything else.

In my years of pastoring souls, I have come to recognize that the way we treat others is the way we treat God and the way we treat God is the way we treat others. Today’s first reading describes how Abraham and Sarah’s hospitality to strangers was rewarded by God.

The Gospel passage describes how Martha, a true child of Abraham, wanted to extend the traditional generous hospitality of her people to Jesus, the true Messiah, by preparing an elaborate meal for him, while her sister Mary spent her time in talking to him and listening to him.

Presenting Martha as a dynamo of action and Mary as a true listener to the word of God, today’s Gospel invites us to serve others with Martha’s diligence, after recharging our spiritual batteries every day by prayer – listening to God and talking to God – as Mary did.

We are able to minister truly to the needs of others only after welcoming God’s Word into our hearts and minds.

The Gospel account of Martha and Mary along with the Old Testament account of Abraham meeting God in his three guests give us an occasion to examine the notion of personal presence to others, and our personal presence to God in Jesus Christ.

Abraham, as you may remember, felt that God was absent from him. After Abraham’s initial experience with God we find him in today’s first reading in his old age. Unable in her younger years to have a child, Sarah now in her old age was obviously sterile.

The remarkable thing about Abraham was the fact that, in spite of the seeming failure of God to respond to him, in spite of all of the catastrophes and misfortunes he and Sarah had met, in spite of all of the sufferings they had endured, Abraham was still actively searching for the presence of God in his life.

He had not given up. He had not been defeated by apparent failure. He was still a pilgrim and a disciple of God. His mind still searched the events of his life for traces of the finger of God writing on the shifting sands of his life’s history.

His eyes and his soul were still waiting for the hand of the Lord to give an indication of the presence of God. It was because of this persisting faith that Abraham in his hospitality was able to perceive the presence of God in the three strange men who suddenly appeared in his life.

Christians are able to see in them a veiled foreshadowing of the Trinitarian God, the God who said let us make man in our image and likeness, and also a veiled foreshadowing of the three Wise Men from the East who point to the presence of God in our lives.

Presence is a quality of soul, a character trait, a habit of mental alertness, an openness of mind that allows us to integrate our lives and our very selves into the lives and selves of others. It is a prerequisite for intimacy and it is an essential characteristic of discipleship.

It is this that Mary chose and that Martha did not understand. Presence means making space for another in your soul, for the person and spirit of another to be whom they really are for you to admire, respect, and for you to receive with hospitality.

This demands the active awareness and the mental and spiritual attention of the disciple, the host, the student, or the friend. Some people allow others to come deeply into their presence only upon set pre-conditions.

The other is allowed into that inner circle of deep awareness only if the other will meet our requirements or fulfill our needs. Discipleship, on the other hand, just as friendship and the intimacy of love, is unconditional.

Martha was all too concerned with the social requirements of polite hospitality. Another practical application can be discerned in the way family members treat each other. Sometimes I’ve watched couples talk at each other rather than really listen to each other.

While one is attempting to communicate, and the other is only half listening, all the while trying to think of the most compelling response to make. TV talk shows are good examples of that. The talking heads only talk at each other.

Sometimes husbands and wives talk at each other as if they knew beforehand what the other was going to say without hearing what was really being said. Parents can treat their children that way and children sometimes treat their parents that way.

There’s no true presence, no real understanding, only hidden agendas that each side compulsively seeks to get out in the discussion. Presence means withdrawing part of one’s self in order that the other can fill in the space created by that self-withdrawal.

Attentive presence is real hospitality, the sort of hospitality that allows the other to enter and be healed of the wounds of isolation and loneliness. It is a hospitality that is unconditional and total. Hospitality is a virtue, a strength of soul that should continue through all of one’s life.

It cuts through any categorizations of others. Just as religion is not merely a part of one’s life but rather one’s life is a part of religion, so also presence and hospitality are states of mind that should be found in all of our relationships with others.

Hospitality, presence, and being personally attentive, all of these are personal qualities that are a part of our living in relationships with others. They are essential to living in relationship to God. The critical question you must face and I must face is how welcoming am I to God?

How conscious am I of His presence in my life? How personally attentive am I to God’s presence, power, and love in my life? You and I should be challenged by these questions. Out of love God made us to love not only each other but above all to be open to and accepting of His love… and to love Him in return.

Hospitality isn’t simply “nice.” Being personally attentive to God each and every day is essential, something far more profound than good manners.

We may feel we are too busy to pay much attention to God. What if God had the same attitude and was too busy to pay much attention to us? How we treat others is an indicator of how we treat God. Something for us all to ponder. Amen.

 

15th Sunday O T Year C – 16

15th Sunday O T Year C – 16

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

There is an old joke: A genie told a man, “I’ll give you three wishes. Whatever I do for you, however, I must do twice as much for your worst enemy.” Now the man thought about it, and about how horrible his worst enemy had been to him, and he finally decided on his three wishes.

First, he wished for 1 billion dollars. He received a billion dollars, and his enemy received two billion. Then, he wished for a lavish mansion on a rugged coast. He received his mansion, but his enemy received one twice as large. And finally, he wished to be beaten half to death.

In today’s gospel reading, Jesus tells a story about a man who was beaten half to death. It’s a famous story that has become a part of our cultural vocabulary. In the very last episode of the TV series Seinfeld, Jerry was arrested for breaking the “Good Samaritan” law.

It’s pretty obvious what Jesus was telling us. That’s the point of stories! But let’s take a few minutes to go a little deeper. Maybe you’ll learn something that you can use to amaze and astound your friends the next time someone says the phrase, “Good Samaritan.”

Jesus is having a conversation with a lawyer. This lawyer was an expert at the law, a scholar and not an attorney. There were a multitude of laws in the scriptures, multiplied with a multitude of interpretations and a multitude of applications by Rabbis over the ages.

The Talmud, a compilation of these interpretations and applications, is several volumes long. It all got very complicated. That’s why you needed lawyers. Which of these laws is the most important? Love God. And love your neighbor. Jesus didn’t make that up. It was current in Jewish thought.

The lawyer knows it. The scholar’s answer came from two sources: 1. Deut.6:4-5, “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.”

  1. Lev.19:18, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Being a good lawyer, however, he wants to nail it down further. Who is my neighbor? We need legal precision.

The scholar correctly understood that the ONE secret of eternal life had TWO parts, but he misunderstood how to use them. He thought of them as a boundary marker: stay within the lines and you’ll be OK. He needed to know where the lines were so that he wouldn’t cross them.

For Jesus, however, loving God and loving one’s neighbor were not just the most important rules; they were the purpose of every rule and every activity. So Jesus tells a story.

A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho. Down is the operative word. It’s a 3000-foot drop in elevation in 17 miles. Jerusalem is in the mountains. Jericho is at the same level as the Dead Sea, several hundred feet below sea level.

It’s not only a physically demanding journey, it’s a dangerous journey. Highwaymen hide in the rocks and nooks and wait for unsuspecting and unprotected travelers. The traveler is attacked, and is left half dead. Just what is half dead?

That’s not easy. It’s one word in Greek: ‘hēmithanēs’, half dead. Almost dead. Not quite dead. In The Princess Bride, Miracle Max says of the dead hero Wesley, “It just so happens that your friend here is mostly dead. There’s a big difference between mostly dead and all dead.”

Half dead. It’s one foot in the grave. It’s a slender thread connecting the person with life. A priest comes by. A priest serves in the temple in Jerusalem, making the sacrifices and operating the religious institution that is at the heart of Jewish national life.

A Levite comes by. A Levite is a temple helper. He doesn’t offer the sacrifices, but he makes things happen. And they see this half dead person, and they pass by on the other side. Both of them. Maybe they were busy. Maybe they were just too important to get their hands dirty.

Maybe they thought the bandits were still nearby. Maybe it was even a trap. Maybe they thought this half-dead fellow would be all-dead soon. Maybe they just didn’t want to get involved. Dealing with this person would cost them time and money.

And then a Samaritan passes by. The Samaritans had some pretty messed up, wrong-headed ideas about how to worship and serve God. The Jews and the Samaritans didn’t exactly get along. They had common ancestors, but they had long since begun to hate each other.

One opinion in the Talmud – some lawyer’s opinion – was that a Jew was not even obligated to try to save the life of a Samaritan. But this Samaritan gets his hands dirty and his clothes bloody as he bandages the victim’s wounds. And he puts the victim on his donkey. He walks.

The victim rides. And he takes him to an inn and spends the night watching after him. And he gives the innkeeper 2 days’ wages – enough to keep him in the inn for quite some time – and he promises to pay even more.

Not only is the theologically suspect Samaritan the hero of the story; the properly religious priest and Levite are the villains. This would be shocking to Jesus’ audience. (It’s not quite the same, but think of Jesus making a Muslim the hero of a story today). (Sorry I am not against any Muslim; I have a lot of Muslim students who are good friend to me).

But wait a minute – isn’t the most important commandment to love God? Doesn’t loving God rightly have priority over the command to love one’s neighbor? The Samaritans didn’t love God properly! How could a Samaritan be the hero of this story? That was the in the mind of the audience.

Except in Jesus’ mind, apparently, these two halves of one commandment don’t conflict with each other. Sometimes, we play one off against the other. Sorry neighbor, I have to do this thing for God. Sorry God, I have to do this thing for my neighbor.

Jesus had a strong dislike for those who failed to love their neighbors on the pretense of serving a higher good. Love God, and love your neighbor. It’s that simple and that complicated. Even with these two commandments, we sometimes try to be legalistic nit pickers.

And sometimes we’re just very narrow in our application of them. We all know the phrases, “Charity begins at home.” Maybe so, but it doesn’t end there. Jesus gives us a bigger vision of love that is extravagant and uncalculating.

Jesus loved us extravagantly. He got his hands dirty and his clothes bloody. He lifted us up and carried us to safety. He paid the price for our salvation. In Jesus, the commandment to love God and the commandment to love our neighbor come together perfectly.

For the debt we owe God, we pay at least partially to our neighbor. We love others, not merely as we love ourselves, but as Jesus loved us.

The story of the Good Samaritan is not merely a morality tale, an account of the kind of life we should lead. It is that, but, at the deepest level, it is also a telling of the basic story of sin, fall, and redemption. All of us sinners are the man beaten up and left half-dead by the side of the road.

We cannot be saved by law or religion or our own works, but only by Jesus Christ and his grace. This best-known of Jesus’ parables is finally a narrative of salvation. The apostle Paul, as he sums up the Christian’s response to what God has done for us, says: (Rom.13:8-10)

“Owe nothing to anyone, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery; you shall not kill; you shall not steal; you shall not covet,” and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this saying, (namely) “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no evil to the neighbor; Hence, love is the fulfillment of the law.” Amen.

 

14th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME – Year C

14th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME – C

Is.66: 10-14; Gal.6: 14-18; Lk.10: 1-12, 17-20

“…the Lord appointed seventy others, and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to come. And he said to them, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” (Lk.10:1-2)

Husband: Today is Sunday and I am going to enjoy it. So I bought three tickets. Wife: Why three tickets? Husband: For you and your parents.

Fr. Smith appeared at the altar with a large Band-Aid on his face. And during his rather lengthy sermon he explained: “While I was shaving this morning I was thinking about my sermon, and I cut my face.” One of the parish wits came up to Fr. Smith after the Mass and declared: “Next time, Fr. Smith, think about your face and cut the sermon.”

Today’s gospel describes how Jesus sent his disciples out to towns and villages to prepare for his visit, and gave them “travel tips” for their missionary journey. This reminds us that announcing the good news of the kingdom is not the task of only a few, but is rather a task for all.

Travel tips for the seventy-two walking witnesses on their first mission trip: While all the synoptic Gospels mention a mission of the Twelve, only Luke adds a second mission of the 72.  Just as Moses selected the seventy-two elders to guide and govern his people, so Luke presents Jesus as the “new Moses” in today’s gospel. Jesus sends out his seventy-two disciples to towns and villages to announce his visit, thus giving a symbolic meaning to the number seventy-two.

The Jews also believed that there were seventy-two nations in the whole world, and they had seventy-two members in the Sanhedrin, the supreme council of the Jews. In the Book of Genesis, seventy descendants of Jacob moved with him from Israel to Egypt to begin a new life.  In the Book of Exodus, seventy elders go up the Mountain of God along with Moses to learn about the new covenant. Announcing the good news of the kingdom is not something optional for a Christian.

Whom are we called to evangelize? We are not going to leave our city, town, or families to go to foreign countries. The people around us are a field vast enough for us to evangelize. We are to evangelize each other within the Christian community: Parents – to Children, Husband – to wife, brothers, sisters, relatives to each other.

The Kind of messengers that the Lord wants us to be: “Greet no one along the way.” This instruction implies that the mission was so urgent that nothing should divert the disciples from it. Do not get distracted from your work. He wants to be determined.

“Do not carry a walking staff or traveling bag; wear no sandals.” In Jesus’ day, travelers carried a stick as a defense against snakes and wild animals, and used sandals as an aid in traveling along dusty roads and rocky byways.  Likewise, a change of clothing as well as food and drink were thought necessary—but Jesus forbade all these. His command was that the disciples should give up even these necessities so as to be both a living act of faith in God and “walking signs” to those who saw them.

The disciples were only armed with their faith and the name of Jesus. To bring people to Christ we don’t need money, nor human power, nor human learning but example of a true Christian life. They needed nothing more.

Acceptance and rejection: One of the reasons we prefer to delegate our Lord’s evangelistic work to priests, religious and missionaries is that we fear rejection. When by our words and lifestyles we tell others about Jesus, we sometimes find ourselves labeled as “religious fanatics,” “Bible-thumpers,” or perhaps, simply as “old-fashioned.” Many times we take the rejection personally.

So Jesus consoles us: “Let your peace come back to you.” This means, “Don’t take it personally.  You have done your part, so don’t worry about the outcome.” He goes on, telling them, “Rejoice because your names are written in heaven” in the book of life! It is not up to us to force anyone to accept J. Our mission is to prepare the way. If a person’s heart is open, the Lord will enter in.

Christ wants us to be messengers of peace and love. We have to be peace-givers, and peace-makers. We should not be the source of quarrels and divisions. Christ wants us never lose courage: never get tired, try and try again, the person who rejected us yesterday may accept today.

Jesus tells, “To shake off the dust from their feet.” We should understand the words of Jesus well. He means to say that those who reject the Gospel do so at their own risk. Such people will be answerable to the Lord and not to us. We do our work but to accept that is up to them. If they don’t accept they have to answer.

The disciples received instructions as to how they were to carry out their mission. The basic idea behind Jesus’ instruction is that his disciples were sent as walking witnesses, and, hence, they were not to depend on anything or anybody except on the Holy Spirit of God and on divine providence.

Did you ever hear the story of the twenty dollar bill and the one dollar bill? They finally met in the US Treasury. After a long life, they had come to the end of their usefulness and were about to be destroyed. The twenty speaks, “I don’t mind. I’ve had a good run. I have been in many excellent restaurants. I’ve been on great vacations. I’ve seen wonderful theater in my day.”

Then the twenty asks the one dollar bill “How about you, pilgrim? What kind of a time have you had?” Downcast, the one dollar bill responded, “Lousy!  I’ve spent most of my life at the bottom of collection baskets in Catholic churches.” We laugh at this story, but the laugh is on us. Amen.