15th Sunday of the Year C (11 Jul 2010)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Spacious, Positive Command
Moses, we heard in the first reading, had focused on the covenant, exhorting people to renew it in their daily living: return to the Lord, your God, with all your heart and all your soul. Loving God includes loving and respecting others, which is not abstract. Thus, Moses described covenant living as not too mysterious and remote for you. ...No, it is something very near to you, already in your mouths and in your hearts; you have only to carry it out. In all their variety the Sacred Writings of Israel recalled, revealed and encouraged people to carry out their covenant-responsibilities. Each day challenges us to carry out faithfully our responsibilities.
Jesus had a clear and deep awareness of the unity of covenant living, loving and respecting God and loving and respecting others. We can express its unity this way: love for God includes love for others; and love for others flows from love for God. The Jews were not ignorant of the covenant’s command to love God. They kept before them the God who liberated them from Egypt, as Moses had told them:
Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone! Therefore, you shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your resources. Take to heart these words which I enjoin on you today. ...Bind them at your wrist as a sign and let them be as a pendant on your forehead. Write them on the door-posts of your houses and on your gates.1
Bind [these words]: Jews did the first binding—at the left wrist and forehead—by placing small scrolls with those words and others into boxes wrapped and held with leather bands. They used them at morning prayer.2
The second binding—on their doorposts—was a small, scroll-shaped container with a scroll on with those verses and others. Mezuzah is Hebrew for doorpost, and the small, scroll-shaped container is called a mezuzah still.3 People touch it on entering and leaving home.
Both bindings recalled and reminded Jews of God’s presence to them and to fulfill their covenant-responsibilities. It is easier to know what not to do than to creatively respond to revelation one moment to the next. A negative command is clear: “Don’t do that.” Positive commands, on the other hand, embrace a wide fields of action. Honor your father and mother can be fulfilled in a variety of ways.
Love God and others is a positive command. With that in mind the words about the scholar of God’s revelation clothed in human words, who we heard in conversation with Jesus, may sound less strange to our ears: the scholar… wished to justify himself. The scholar was sincere, not stuck on himself. He wanted to know with clarity how to fulfill the spacious, positive command, love your neighbor. With his parable Jesus answered the scholar’s question, Who is my neighbor? with how.
Jesus’ point was that everyone is neighbor. If I am to love God with my heart, soul and resources, I am to love humans the same way. Christian love is not selective. Christians do not choose to love and respect some people but not others. “When I speak of love,” Martin Luther King Jr. said in 1964 when he accepted the Nobel Peace Prize, “I am not speaking of some sentimental and weak response which is little more than emotional bosh.”4 Christian love responds to people and their needs because God loves and respects us; and desires us, God’s agents, to extend God’s love and respect to others. Jesus has bound himself to us, and he sends us to do the same in a genuine way not in “some sentimental and weak response” to his command.
In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week, be aware the Trinity desires you to be an agent of their divine love. Ask the Good Samaritan to present you to Jesus. Praise Jesus for inviting you to join him as an ambassador of his good news. Thank Jesus for how Jesus heals you, and savor your healing. Close, saying the Lord’s Prayer. As we forgive those who trespass against us always follows forgive us our trespasses. Forgiveness is always double. So is healing. Jesus heals us so that we may help others recognize and feel Jesus doing the same in them. That’s a key way you and I fulfill God’s spacious, positive love-command.
- Deuteronomy 6.4-9. The Hebrew word often translated as strength also means abundance, hence resources.
- Visit this link for more, including videos.
- Visit here for more about mezuzah.
- The text of his speech and others at the event.
Wiki-image of the phylactery for the hand is in the public domain. Wiki-image by NobbiP of a German postage stamp reproducing an artwork depicting the Good Samaritan is used according to the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 Unported license.