Spirituality of the Readings
Beloved of God
If we listen carefully to the readings this Sunday, we will hear the whole Christian, Catholic life very gently stated.
In the First Reading Moses describes how simple God's command is. I would like to quote his words because they are beautiful.
God’s command is not too mysterious and remote for you. It is not up in the sky, that you should say, ‘Who will go up in the sky to get it for us and tell us of it, that we may carry it out?’ Nor is it across the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will cross the sea to get it for us and tell us of it, that we may carry it out?’
The commandment of the Lord is very near to us, already in our hearts and in our mouths. We have only to carry it out. But what is it?
In the Gospel, a lawyer is very interested in this question. He asks Jesus to collapse the whole law down to a single saying. Since the answer is “not too mysterious and remote,” Jesus asks the lawyer what he thinks it is. The man says, by rote:
You shall love the Lord, your God,
with all your heart,
with all your being,
with all your strength,
and with all your mind,
and your neighbor as yourself.
“You have answered correctly,” Jesus says. “Do this and you will live.” But the man wants specifics. He is digging. He asks, who is my neighbor?
What would be your answer to this question, which seems to be the crux of the matter? Take your time.
For his part, Jesus is trying to get the man (and you?) to find a simple answer without being handed one. As before, he does not respond directly, but this time gives the lawyer a parable to chew on.
A man fell victim to robbers. They beat him terribly, take his money, and leave him lying in the road, half-dead. A priest (an Israeli) saw this wounded man on the road and he passed right by, averting his eyes. A Levite (an Israeli) did the same thing. Along came a Samaritan, who theoretically should have been an enemy of the Israelis. But he did not avert his eyes or cross to the other side of the road.*
He approached the victim,
poured oil and wine over his wounds and bandaged them.
Then he lifted him up on his own animal,
took him to an inn, and cared for him.
The next day he took out two silver coins
and gave them to the innkeeper with the instruction,
‘Take care of him.’
Now the lawyer starts to get it. Jesus asks him, “Which of these three, in your opinion, was neighbor to the robbers' victim?” and the lawyer says immediately, “the one who treated him with mercy.” Jesus answers, “Go and do likewise.”
Jesus does the same thing with you and me. Jesus keeps working us, trying to get us to see the simple answer that hides inside us. Go help those in need. God has given you an open heart. If only you would let your heart receive his love and then pass it on to his other people!
This is not too mysterious or remote. Start now. Become what you were made to be. It is written within the law and within you.
* Jesus is not trying to slander the Israelis, he is showing that your neighbor does not consist of just your own tribe or family or even just your friends. Every person on earth is your neighbor. Each is beloved to God, each is precious to the One we are to love with our entire self, mind and strength. and being.
John Foley, SJ
Fr. John Foley, SJ is a composer and scholar at Saint Louis University.
**From Saint Louis University