Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Reading I Deuteronomy 30:10-14
Reading II St. Paul to the Colossians 1:15-20
Gospel Luke 10:25-37
In the first reading we hear that the law of God is not abstract, is not something that is off in the sky and has to be explained to people. It’s something that is concrete and that it is the law of God’s love. It is something that everyone can understand. But even though it is self-explanatory, we only receive it if we want to understand it.
We hear in the Gospel about a young man who is knows the law. So he tested Jesus and, of course, Jesus answered as he did. But the young man wants to justify himself so he asks, “Well, who is my neighbor?” There is something that G.K. Chesterton said many years ago, “We are called to love our neighbor, and to love our enemy, because all too often they are the same person.”
We all know what has been going on this past week. We know from the national news that two men were shot by police. We also know that there were 11 police officers shot in Dallas. Each and every person involved was a human person. The two men that were shot, whether they had criminal records or not, and the five police officers and the rest who were injured, they were human persons. It should break our hearts to know that there are persons out there, including ourselves, who view any person less than human and less than deserving of the love of God.
It is because we view some persons as less than human that helps us justify our attitudes toward some who are mentally disabled. It is because we think less of people that we are able to justify the taking of any human life. It is not saying that we can’t have justice, we can. Justice can and should be pursued. But if we allow ourselves to look at people who have committed a crime in a negative way, it is our way of taking revenge and giving ourselves a way to justify. It doesn’t matter if they are infants, or firefighters or Asians or black people or whatever color. It doesn’t matter if they are murderers, or rapists, or moms and dads or children. Each and every person is a human person and deserving of God’s love, and we are called to love them.
Being a Christian isn’t easy, but when we truly understand what it means to love our neighbor as ourselves, then we also understand that each and every one of us wants to receive love. We want to be loved and to share the joy of community with one another. We want to feel acceptance.
There are several programs in prisons. Some or those programs involve inmates taking care of cats and dogs, and their perspective of life changes because of that service. There is one very successful program in Louisiana where essentially if you are sentenced to that prison, then you have the opportunity to help take care of several inmates who are dying of old age or some disease. They have a Hospice Program there. Yes, the Hospice program is run by doctors and nurses and yet there are also some inmates who take care of those who are dying, and those inmates understand the joy of feeding one another and caring for those who are ill.
What is going on in our world is not OK. It’s not. Again, each and every one of our hearts should be breaking. First of all, many people do not feel safe. It’s not OK that people feel persecuted because of the color of their skin or what they look like. It’s not OK that there are police officers who do not feel safe or appreciated because of the wrong action by other police officers.
If we are called to love one another, to love our neighbors as ourselves whether we view them as our enemy or not, yes, then we are called to pray for one another because prayer works. Prayer often changes our own hearts. It’s not necessarily about receiving the answer we want, or winning the lottery or having someone who is close to us, someone we love, not die. When we communicate with God through prayer, our hearts are changed and if our hearts are truly changed and we continue to grow in our desire in our relationship with Christ, He will do something.
Our prayers can fuel a change that we seek to make in this world. If we truly are in a relationship with God we will seek to make changes in our own community, and in our nation and in the whole world. We are called to proclaim the Gospel to everyone that we encounter, and our action and the attitude we vocalize, whether on Facebook or Twitter, affects people. If we have a few people who are less than human, then our kids and our friends and everyone we encounter is going to be affected by that.
We need to be aware of our own actions and the words that we say. If it is hard to see the humanity of someone who has taken a life, or done something negative. It will be hard. But there is still hope to see that person as our neighbor and we are still called to share the love of Christ with them. If we are not able to do that, if we are not able to love our neighbor regardless of what they have done to us, or regardless of whatever status they have, if we are not able to view each and every person with the lens of God’s love — then maybe it is time we look at ourselves and ask, “How have I reacted to the love of God in my life? Have I really taken seriously the experience of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit? What do I need to do so that I can share the love of Christ with each and every person that I encounter?
Father Adam Pritchard is parochial vicar at Blessed Sacrament Parish in Quincy, IL.
(TASCAM DR 40 file 0049)