15th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year C.
Commentary Theme for this Sunday:
“To Inherit Eternal Life.”
The first reading is telling us that the Commandments are not something imposed from outside, but spring from the inner need of our heart.
The second reading may also be seen in line with this theme: Jesus was the first in all, even in the love for his brethren. He was the first real and authentic “Samaritan” of humankind.
Our faithfulness and love of God we learn from the Gospel of today will be assessed on the basis of our attitude towards our neighbour. True religion is the ‘religion of love and action’, not a religion of just beautiful but empty words.
The Samaritan could practice it because his heart was pure and capable of harbouring the feelings that God has for the human person, that is, a heart capable of love and compassion.
It is recommended that the actual readings are first studied and then meditated upon with a prayer to the Holy Spirit to grant you the gift of ‘wisdom’ to understand the meaning of the messages of Love, Forgiveness and the Offer of Salvation that the Lord has for each one of us in the Holy Bible.
These commentaries, which have been extracted and summarised for our meditation, are from the published works of priests who have, by their Divine inspiration, become acclaimed scholars of the Scriptures and generally reflect the Church’s understanding of the readings.
These commentaries are not meant to replace the Sunday Homily at Holy Mass but are provided as an additional guide to assist and further enhance our understanding of the Sunday Liturgical Readings.
‘Daily Reflections’ and a Prayer are included to enable us to ‘Live the Word’ during the week following the Sunday Mass. We will begin to understand the meaning of gratuitous love and our life’s true purpose. Through His Word, we will follow the Light to help fulfil the mission that has been given to each one of us by our Creator.
“Allow the Spirit of God to break the chains that keep us from understanding and accepting the word of God.”
How can one know the will of God? The people of ancient times tried to find it out by asking magicians and witchdoctors, consulting priests, or requesting the assistance of those who studied the holy books. How do present day people react to this need? Christians have a safe and sure guide: the Holy Gospel. They read it, reflect on it, and pray on it and during the moments of reflection God reveals himself. The Book of Deuteronomy is suggesting to us another way to discover the will of God, a very simple method, possible and available to all: “Listen to one’s heart.” The reading says: the ‘Law of the Lord’ is neither obscure nor beyond man’s reach’, it is not in heaven, nor is it beyond the seas. It is very near; it is in the mouths and hearts of every person. Had mankind been able to open up their hearts to God’s will, Moses, instead of having to bring down the Ten Commandments cast in stone tablets from the top of the mountain, would have simply addressed the crowd by saying, “Come on people, this is not something novel and strange. I’m not telling you anything you haven’t heard before or can’t figure out through common sense. This is something already in your mouths, hearts and minds. Don’t lie, don’t steal, don’t kill, don’t disgrace your spouse, don’t forget your parents, and don’t forget God.” See how easy and simple that is?
Easy to say, anyway! Unfortunately what is simple often counters the human will. That will, the most powerful aspect of being human, is also what makes us ‘in God’s image’. That ‘Godly piece of us’ however keeps trying to set ourselves up like divinities for our own private devotion. We have our own favourite commandment: ‘Bow down and serve me’! Sad to say, that commandment usually gets more obedience than the other ‘Ten’ combined. Moses urges the people to surrender heart and soul to God’s Law and to his will. God wants from us what also our hearts demand. The Law of God stems from the very nature of the human being. We shall find an example of this also in the Gospel of today that will show us a priest, a Levite and a Samaritan man. It will be only this last person, though ignorant of theological arguments, is rich in compassion and love that will do the will of God. If our hearts were simple and pure, and not blinded by our passions and selfishness, we would always choose what is according to the will of the Lord. The Law of God, continues the reading, is not an arbitrary imposition of a master, but is the expression of what the ‘best part of us’ urges us to do.
How many times do we make wrong decisions just because we rely on our cold arguments, worldly values and what we think is logical and most comfortable for our own benefit and set aside the voice of our hearts? If we would begin by laying down our fiercely independent and self-seeking will, God’s Law and will, would be second nature to us.
The Psalm is a lament, quoted in accounts of the death of Jesus (Mt. 27:34). It can be put on the lips of the wounded traveler in the parable. The kindness and compassion of God that he looked for came to him by means of the ‘Good Samaritan’, who listened to the needy and the voice in his heart.
The letter to the Colossians was written to combat various strange and false teachings at the time. Among these was a tendency to treat the exalted Christ as one of the several powers that control the universe. We hear today an early Christian hymn that contradicts this. It does not give the details of how Christ became Jesus and entered into time and history. It does not explain how Jesus juggled two job descriptions simultaneously: being the ‘One’ through whom ‘everything continues in being’ while having to fish with his disciples on the lake. Christ was God’s agent in creation (Prv. 8) and is superior to every other power. By his Cross he defeated them. His earthly career is not irrelevant because his Cross was the means of reconciliation between God and humanity. Nor is he idle now, because not only is the Church his body (1 Cor. 12), but because it has a head that is Christ.
One day a lawyer stands up to test Jesus and asks him: what must I do to inherit eternal life? The Master replies with another question: what is written in the Law? The lawyer replies promptly by quoting two biblical passages. The first, well known and proclaimed daily in their prayers by every devout Jew is: “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength”; the second, less known and less stressed upon by the law teachers, is taken from the book of Leviticus: “and your neighbour as yourself ”. A perfect answer and Jesus admits it saying, “You have answered right!” “Do this and life is yours”. The lawyer expresses a small doubt: “and who is my neighbour?”
In response Jesus relates the following parable: A man was once on his way down from Jerusalem to Jericho. The distance between these two cities is about 27 km. and it takes five hours on foot. It is a fairly steep decent, crosses a desert, passes near an oasis where there is a spring of fresh water. In ancient times this road was very dangerous for travellers, because at every bend or corner they could find bandits or robbers in wait. A man says Jesus, was attacked by robbers that beat him up, robbed him of everything that he had and left him on the road half dead.
By chance along the same route were descending also a priest and a Levite. Two Jews then, and well-to-do people, accustomed to prayer and who had clear ideas about God and religion. Why is Jesus putting into his story these two “religious figures”? Should he not avoid any possible controversial attitude and just insist on the positive points? Why provoke the ‘important people’, the ‘hierarchy’? The Master had a ‘way’ of conflicting and getting angry with so called ‘religious’ people. God cannot bear with external formalities used as an easy way out not to get involved in the real problems of humankind.
What did the priest and the Levite of the parable do, when they saw the man? They passed by on the other side. Maybe they were afraid of being assaulted, or maybe they were concerned about losing their ritual purity: they were not allowed to approach corpses, so, perhaps the real reason was that the ‘false religion that they had been practicing had hardened their hearts’. They had become insensitive and unable to harbour God’s feelings: the ‘compassion, love and mercy’ for those in need.
A Samaritan going on his way along the same route passed by near the wounded man and was moved by compassion. He went up to him, bandaged his wounds pouring oil and wine on them, he lifted him up on his mount, took him to an inn and had him looked after and said to the inn-keeper that he would take responsibility for all the expenses incurred. The Samaritan, faced by a man in need, feels in his heart the same feelings of God: love and compassion, and from that moment he no longer obeys his head but his heart: forgets his business, commitments, religious bonds, weariness, hunger and fear; he acts immediately without stopping, until he has the victim safe and at ease.
Jesus does not give his assessment of the Samaritan, he lets the lawyer do it who passed with full marks! It is important here to see how Jesus has turned upside down the question put to him at the start: “Who is my neighbour?” In turn he now asks: “which one of these according to you proved himself a neighbour to the one who had fallen into the hand of the bandits?” It is the one who proves to have in himself the attitude and merciful behaviour of God. The needs of our brothers and sisters show moment after moment, the will of God.
Jesus came to fulfil the covenant. Part of this fulfilment was to redefine who belonged to God’s people. Hither to it was circumcision, plus the keeping of the Law, that defined the people of God. In the parable of the ‘Good Samaritan’, however, Jesus makes it clear that God’s people are those who show compassion and love towards others.
The last words of Jesus to the lawyer summarize the message of the whole parable: “Go and do the same yourself”. “Be a neighbour to the person in need” and you will inherit eternal life! If we truly learn this parable’s lesson, we will treat all we meet as our neighbour. By loving the brother or sister instead, the “Samaritans” have always been worshipping the true and living God.
“Our relationship with God is not separate from our human relationships, but is intertwined with them.”
‘Acknowledgement and Thanks’ to ‘Recommended Source Material’ by:
Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk, Fr. Fernando Armellini SCI, Peter Edmonds SJ, Richard Baawobr M.Afr, Joseph A. Slattery Ph.D, Adelmo Spagnolo MCCJ, Silvester O’Flynn OFM Cap, J.E. Spicer CSsR, John R. Donahue SJ and Alice Camille – Master’s degree in Divinity.
Reflections for each day this Week to lead us in the ‘Way, the Truth and the Life’.
Almighty God and Father, on the … of the week following 15th Sunday of Ordinary Time Year C, we reflect on …
Sun. … Christians have been given a sure guide to the will of God: the Holy Gospel. We all need to read it, to reflect on it and to pray on it. In our moments of deep reflection and in the quietness of our special place of being with God or in a place or time of his choosing, he will reveal his will and his plan for us.
Mon. … Today’s first reading shows us another way to discover the will of God and that is to ‘listen to our hearts’. The Law of the Lord in the New Covenant has not been etched into stone but into the hearts of every man and woman. God wants from us what our hearts demand. We are regularly confronted by the world’s favourite commandment: ‘Bow down and serve me’–‘I am No.1?’ Sad to say, that this commandment usually gets more obedience that the other ‘Ten’ combined.
Tues. … The Law of the Lord is not an arbitrary imposition of a hard taskmaster, but is the expression of what our hearts urge us to do. If our hearts were simple, pure and childlike, filled with love and compassion and not burdened by our own passions, selfishness and greed, we would always surrender ourselves to God’s Law and choose what is according to God’s will.
Wed. … Many fall into beliefs that our lives are inhabited by powers and spirits that possess a mysterious force capable of conditioning all human life. They falsely promise to bring to us wealth and all the things we desire. We need to help those in our communities who still believe and engage in superstitious practices and show them the “Way’. A superstitious belief of any sort cannot be compatible with the ‘truth and the faith’ in the victory and power of Christ over all things.
Thurs. … Like the priest and the Levite in the ‘Parable of the Good Samaritan’, have we fallen prey to the norms and protective measures of today’s world to become almost insensitive to the needs and mercy to those in need? Many of us are genuinely afraid of being high-jacked or assaulted in today’s crime ridden world; or do we perhaps use this as an excuse not to help
Frid. … We all fall so easily into the trap of categorizing people. We tend to put labels on people from ‘such a religion’, ‘such a race’ or ‘that tribe’, or from ‘that part of town’. The story of Jesus challenges all our prejudices. We may not expect any good from certain categories of people that we fear or despise; but God can surprise us if we have an open mind and heart.
Sat. … A thought to ponder on: “God asked the angels where he should stay so that people might enjoy his presence. ‘In the heavens reached by prayer’, suggested the first angel. ‘In distant shrines reached by dedicated pilgrims’, said the second. God thought these might be beyond most people. So a third angel said: ‘Let them find you in the people they meet every day’. ‘Brilliant!’ said God, ‘let’s do it’”. This brings to mind the question, “How can we love the God we cannot see if we do not love the people who we do see”?
Prayer after the Daily Reflection
Father, in today’s world, in the fragmented society in which we live, we are still suspicious about our differences. Help us to become together in power of Your love. Help us to discover what it really means to be human. Help us to develop our humanity in the image of Jesus to enable others to find You in our hearts. We pray Lord that the Gospel will liberate us so that we may have life in Jesus’ name.
This we ask through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, One God, forever and ever. Amen.
Compliments: Bible Discussion Group.
Our Lady of the Wayside, Maryvale.
“Discovering the Truth through God’s living Word”.