Liturgical Year C

15th Sunday of Ordinary Time; He took pity

Are you a legalist, a person who strictly and literally adhere to the laws or you think the rules are there to be broken? If you belong to this first group of people, then the reading from the Book of Deuteronomy is just right for you. It is full of all sorts of directives and prohibitions and it is the fifth book of the Hebrew Bible, and of the Jewish Torah. The whole Old Testament is full of regulations which include 228 commandments and 365 prohibitions a religious Jew was to follow.

Modern people don’t like commandments and prohibitions. They want to be free. At the same time today we have more laws, regulations and prohibitions than ever throughout the history of mankind, let alone the number of judges and lawyers has never been bigger. We could put it in other words: when there is no morality, the laws come in abundance. The more people are away from God’s laws, the more they need human laws which are always incomplete and a result of a compromise.

However, Jews found it very hard to find their way in the forest of the laws, which were human laws in a way, gradually introduced by rabbis and which came to separate man from the spirit of God and God’s idea of man. That makes this part from the book of Deuteronomy even more significant since it tells us what the genuine God’s law is. The word is not something we are not familiar with, on the contrary, it is in us, in our heart and mind.

A great number of laws and prohibitions prompts this expert in the law, who was familiar with what the Bible and tradition say, to as such a basic question: “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Lk 10,25). Or as other two evangelists wrote: Which is the most important commandment in the Law?

Jesus was a pedagogy genius. Instead of answering directly his question, Jesus asks him: What is written in the Law? showing him that among all those laws it is hard to tell how basic and important the two commandments of love are: love the Lord and love your neighbor. Jesus summed up all the commandments into these two! They convey all the morality and ethos. All the Jews, all the Christians, actually members of any religious group can be saved by fulfilling these commandments. Even a nonbeliever, if he/she lives in total love for his neighbours, although he/she doesn’t know about the first commandment, can be saved – because God in His infinite love compensates for deficiency of our lacking human love.

However, we need to be realistic here. The first commandment is well known to the expert in the Law, but not to many people of today: love the Lord your God. For centuries man has put God under a question mark trying to forget him and shut him out of our modern society in all sorts of ways. Nevertheless, without God everything falls apart and doesn’t make any sense. That’s the reason why we have so many laws and regulations and why a modern man is constantly searching for love.

On the other hand, the one who thinks that he/she knows God should be careful not to fall into the same trap the expert in the Law found himself in. He didn’t know who his neighbour is. In this parable Jesus is primarily warning us, the official Law experts, cult officials, professional theologians, but also all those who consider themselves faithful, the people who live according to the Law.

It is so easy to pass by a wounded man and ignore him. It is especially easy to do so with those whose souls are hurting, whose lives are messed up, who are being tricked by the enemy of man making use of their weaknesses and now he has left them half-dead. But the others don’t notice it. Even those who, by their life service, should notice them. We need to feel the touch of the good Samaritan…

It is more than obvious that the Son of God is hidden behind the good Samaritan. We must not forget that Jesus chose a character from the people Jews didn’t like at all; they even despised Samaritan names and avoided the area where they lived.

Personally, it really took time for me to discover the central place of this gospel.

This central place is hidden in the expression He took pity. The Son of God notices and knows our wounds and moved by compassion he comes to treat them, he finds our brothers who will take care of us and he is ready to pay a hundredfold price.

Only the one who has an experience of being hurt or exhausted, but still not forgotten by God, touched by compassion coming from the hands of the good Samaritan who healed one’s wounds, weaknesses, fears, will be able to truly live these two Jesus' commandments of love. That person will start to love oneself without narcissism and egoism. That person will love oneself because he/she is beloved child of God, worthy of all love. If you love yourself that is the first step towards loving your neighbour whom we can see, and then God whom we cannot see – and that’s a fulfillment of Jesus’ commandments of love.

Jesus as the first good Samaritan wants to help a wounded man, even when he despises him. It’s a risk, of course. Jesus could be abandoned, despised and his mercy ignored without any gratitude. But he cannot but to be merciful. And there is an award for all those who do so.

Bruxelles, July 15th, 2007

12.07.2013.Author: p. Antun Volenik, SJ
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