Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
The Book of Deuteronomy, the source of the first reading for this weekend, is one of the first five books of the Bible, collectively called the Pentateuch, from the Greek word meaning “five.” These five books have been venerated for many years as containing the revelation of God to Moses, the greatest of all the ancient Hebrew prophets.
In this reading, Moses speaks to the people in God’s behalf. Moses speaks the word of God. He calls the people to obey God’s commandments, but, he is clear, no mere lip service or insincere motions or masquerade of devotion is acceptable. Again speaking for God, Moses summons the people to heartfelt, honest and total dedication to God. Obeying commandments therefore becomes a visible expression of a genuine attitude of the soul.
Also, Moses makes clear to the people that God, while almighty and invisible, and neither human nor bound to the earth, is aware of human lives and communicates with humans.
For its second reading, the Church for this weekend presents a passage from the Epistle to the Colossians. Colossae was a relatively important city in the Roman Empire’s northern Mediterranean world. A Christian community had formed in Colossae, and its spiritual vitality was Paul’s concern that led to the writing of this epistle.
The reading builds on the revelation given centuries earlier by Moses and by other prophets. God is invisible. Mortals see God, however, in the Lord Jesus. Jesus lived and breathed as a human. Risen and glorified, Jesus rules over all creation and over all creatures. He is the head of the Church. Discipleship means accepting Jesus, but it also means uncompromising commitment to Jesus.
The Christian community in Colossae, alive with the very life of the Holy Spirit, was much, much more than a coincidental gathering of persons professing Jesus as Lord. It was the gathering of people bonded together in Jesus and living in the spirit of Jesus. St. Luke’s Gospel provides a very basic concept of Christian theology. Jesus says that the true disciple must love God above all things and must love neighbor as self. At times, people assume that this admonition was uniquely New Testament. It was not. Ancient Judaism concerned itself not only with outward manifestations of obedience to God, and formal worship of God, but with the deep intentions of the heart.
Historic belief among Hebrews, as evidenced in this weekend’s first reading, required a genuine commitment of the mind and heart to God.
This reading gives us the familiar, and beautiful, story of the Good Samaritan, with its powerful message of the availability of God’s love to all, and the impact that this love can bring to ordinary human life.
First century A.D. Jews at the time regarded Samaritans almost as incapable of holiness or goodness. Invariably, inevitably, Samaritans simply were no good. In this parable, Jesus taught that virtue actually could be found in a Samaritan, and more broadly, that anyone can love God and love others.
Over the years, American culture has advanced so that today many Americans are more alert to, and rejecting of, prejudice. Admittedly, however, as evidenced sadly every day by hate-filled actions and words, prejudice is not dead in this country. Just listen to the news on television, day after day.
The story of the Good Samaritan has components not utterly absent from American culture today. So, the story is relevant. So is the lesson. No one is beyond Christ’s love or essentially bad, and anyone can be empowered to act in the example of Christ and follow the ancient admonition about loving others. The grace of the Spirit can heal and strengthen anyone.
It was the message that Paul preached, and that presents living examples around the world every day.
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