Sunday, July 10, 2016

Sunday word, 10 Jul 16

Following Hearts
Fifteenth Sunday of the Year B (10 Jul 2016)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.

For a long while I heard today’s gospel unaware of a few features. They helped me appreciate the parable that may be the most moving Jesus told. The features are: locale; motive; and humane. First, locale.

The exchange between the scholar of God’s law and Jesus happened in Samaria. Not long before in the gospel Jesus had begun to make his way to Jerusalem. He chose to pass through one of its towns, but the Samaritans refused to let him.1 Samaria was the locale in which Jesus told his parable as he traveled.

Travel in Jesus’ world was not impossible. The Romans maintained a vast network of roads; some were dangerous. In the locale of Samaria hilly roads ascending to Jerusalem were lonely. Robbers patrolled them—Jesus was not being fanciful. Organized villains were common—gangs, gets at Jesus’ meaning.

The second feature is motive. In that risky territory the scholar of God’s law approached Jesus with a hostile heart: he stood up to test Jesus. Making distinctions in God’s law had become more important than God’s desires to many religious professionals by Jesus’ time. I suppose they thought it an art; sadly their practice wounded many innocent, good-hearted and generous people. When the scholar’s test ended so quickly he kept the spotlight on him: he wanted to justify himself. He asked Jesus his question, Who is my neighbor? His question points to the third feature: being humane.

We could leave worship today thinking the man who fell victim to robbers was saved by someone with nothing to lose: the Samaritan did not have to worry about ritual purity as the priest and Levite did. But that misses Jesus’ intent. He had affirmed the scholar’s insistence that loving God and loving humans were one love: do [so] and you will live, Jesus told him. The Samaritan risked losing his life when he chose not to pass by on the opposite side as the other travelers had. Robbers could have waited for someone to get a closer look at the dying man. More, the Samaritan traveler was moved with compassion when he saw the man lying there. Those who were part of God’s people, heirs of the covenant—represented by priest and Levite—seemed to have lost their humane and human selves: intense suffering left them unmoved: the man was naked, beaten and half-dead!

Acting in humane ways flows from our hearts. God’s desire for us to be in covenant-relationship with God is within us. Christian love does not pick and choose. Every human is our opportunity to love God or ignore God. That is true for every Christian wherever we may be. Other motives outside us may paralyze our hearts: no keen sense that friends of Jesus show God love by sincerely responding to others; the world’s motive to get ahead may overwhelm our Christian senses; or we may allow fear to inhibit responses our hearts truly desire. Acting in humane ways flows from our hearts. As Moses reminded, we have only to carry it out. I dare add this: asking for grace to make our hearts freer allows us to carry out God’s desires today.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Rest our triune God.
  • Ask the Good Samaritan to present you to Jesus.
  • Chat with him: praise Jesus for dying and rising for you; thank him for inviting us to join him as ambassadors of his healing love.
  • Ask him for grace to make our hearts more supple and free.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. It reminds us that we exercise our hearts to grow like Jesus’ heart in little ways as well as ones of greater moment.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

Luke 9.51-53; the beginning of the gospel two weeks ago.


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