15th Week in Ordinary Time, Sunday, Cycle C (2)

Today’s readings remind us that it is not hard to know the Lord’s expectations for us. We’re the ones who complicate things. The difficulty comes in doing what Our Lord expects of us. Why?

In today’s First Reading Moses, in his parting words to the Israelites, encourages them to see that what the Lord expects of them is not hard to know or achieve: it is turning to God with all their heart and soul. The Lord had come to them when they were slaves in Egypt, led them to freedom, and constituted them as his people at Mt. Sinai, giving them the Ten Commandments that we live even today. When they rebelled, the Lord had Moses lead them through the desert for forty years, but his expectations never changed. They resisted for a long time, but he’d already told them at Mt. Sinai what he expected of them. When Moses speaks to them in today’s First Reading, just before they would finally enter into the Promised Land, he is almost pleading them to turn to their Lord with all their heard.

The Lord has made this even easier by sending us his Son, the image of the invisible God, as Paul describes in today’s Second Reading. Moses in the First Reading describes the Lord’s commandment as close, already in their hearts and lips, waiting to be carried out. With the coming of Christ, the Lord’s expectations become even closer: we see them in the flesh, in the Son. Paul reminds us that all things were created in, through, and for the Son. By conforming ourselves to Christ we are conforming ourselves to what humanity is truly meant to be, turning away from any confusion or disfiguration due to sin. This is not just a process of aligning our goals with Our Lord’s. We were created in the image and likeness of God, so by conforming ourselves to the “image of the invisible God” we conform ourselves to the pattern of life the Lord wants for us. It is the best lifestyle for which we can hope. Through the Son we are aided in turning to God with all our heart and soul; he not only leads by example, but also empowers our charity through his act of love on the Cross.

In today’s Gospel the scribe shows wisdom in seeing that love for God and for neighbor are the path to fulfillment in life. He just wants to know one point of fine print: who should we consider our neighbor? The answer is not hard: everyone is our neighbor, as the parable of the Good Samaritan teaches. The man waylaid on the way to Jericho was heading from a “good part of town” to a “bad one” (Jericho often symbolized turning your back on Jerusalem and heading into sin); anyone could have rationalized that when you head to a bad part of town you deserve what you get. The Samaritan was overcome with compassion at the sight of his neighbor bleeding and half dead alongside the road. In Luke’s Gospel the scribe asks in the context of asking what he needs to do in order to inherit eternal life. That Samaritan’s goodness and compassion, by extension, despite all the bad blood between Jews and Samaritans, won him eternal life. It’s not complicated. We make it complicated. Strive to love God and every neighbor and you will accomplish something in life and achieve everything truly worthwhile.

It’s not uncommon that when we hear Our Lord’s expectation that we love our neighbor one or two people come to mind that make us shudder (“Love him? Love her? No way!”). The Good Samaritan today was moved with compassion at the sight of the beaten man. Sacred Scripture doesn’t say what the Levite felt, only that he kept his distance. Whether someone invokes compassion or revulsion in us, Our Lord expects us to love them. Love is a conviction, and, at times, there won’t be feelings to back it up. Anyone who has experienced love has experienced how strong it is when it is not backed up by pleasant feelings. If there is anyone in your life that your feelings are keeping you from loving, make the resolution to love them and wish for them whatever will make them healthy and holy. Your feelings may not change, but your love will.

Readings: Deuteronomy 30:10–14; Psalm 69:14, 17, 30–31, 33–34, 36, 37; Colossians 1:15–20; Luke 10:25–37. See also 15th Week in Ordinary Time, Sunday, Cycle C, 3rd Week of Lent,Friday,  9th Week in Ordinary Time, Thursday and 20th Week in Ordinary Time, Friday, and 27th Week in Ordinary Time, Monday.