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Contents: Volume 2 - The Fifteenth Sunday - July 14, 2019


 

The

15th

Sunday

 

1. -- Lanie LeBlanc OP

2. -- Carol & Dennis Keller

3. --

4. --

5. --(Your reflection can be here!)

 

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Sun. 15 C

This past Sunday was the first time we parishioners met our new pastor. After a get- acquainted Q & A, he talked about each person being a member of one big family and the theme that what we do good for someone, we do for ourselves. The same happens with anything wrong or evil that is done.

That perspective is a good connection to the "Good Samaritan" story of today's Gospel. The priest and Levite had their reasons for ignoring the man in need, but the Samaritan (the outsider who was despised) "was moved with compassion". Jesus tells us to "go and do likewise", by acting with mercy to those we find in need just as the Samaritan did.

Times seem not too much different than in the days of the priest and Levite. Jesus's words about loving God and neighbor are still valid. What will it take to change us and our reluctant attitude?

A look at the reasons for hesitating to aid someone will help. Many reasons are actually very good ones! For a starter, it is difficult in some circumstances to balance a perspective of mercy with the reality that we need to protect ourselves from all sorts of people with vicious "scams" these days.

Being honest about the value of whatever the reason vs. the value in being merciful can be a soul searching time for each "reason" on each of our lists. Incorporating Jesus's values more deeply into our own lives in small matters will surely help to tip the balance of our decisions especially if we can rule out personal dangerous consequences. This may be a slow process but certainly a move in a compassionate direction for our spiritual well-being and the well-being of everyone else.

Do you need a suggested place to start in order to stretch and grow? Check out your parish newsletter to start close to home or a quiet look around your table at mealtime to get even closer. If starting in a less personal way seems easier, look at the pressing issues in your town .

As we do this internal talking to ourselves in the presence of the Lord, we also need to be aware of bigger systemic issues that require a combined and merciful response. The media is full of disturbing pictures and or stories of hundreds of people in dire need. Regardless of political affiliation or leanings, it is critical that mercy be inserted at the top of the list of what to do to help these groups of people ... and soon! What will you do?

Blessings,

Dr. Lanie LeBlanc OP

Southern Dominican Laity

lanie@leblanc.one

 

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Fifteenth Sunday in Ordered Time July 14 2019

Deuteronomy 30:10-14; Responsorial Psalm 19 (or 69 Presider’s choice); Colossians 1:15-20; Gospel Acclamation John 6:63 & 68; Luke 10:25-37

The story of the Good Samaritan is so familiar that we hardly need anyone to proclaim it to us. Because of its familiarity we can easily become distracted, nod off while standing, or indulge our addiction to an electronic gadget from our pockets. It goes without saying, however, that the Scriptures have insights, inspirations, and interpretations of human life that depend on how far we’ve come in our growth as a Spiritual person. This story in Luke encourages us to think not only with our minds but also with our hearts.

The story contrasts our understanding of compassion with what mercy is. This story contrasts those honored for their work as leaders of worship and as ministers who support the participation of the assembly in song and instrumentation. The story allows us to identify with at least six persons. There is Jesus, the teacher, the healer of the wounded and forsaken. There is the scholar of the Law whose study of the law is a matter of great pride. There is the priest whose function is to be an intermediary between God present in the Temple and the people who gather to be brought into union with the God who saves. There is the Levite whose tribe did not receive a portion of the Promised Land. Their role in the culture of the Chosen People appears to be largely the role of troubadours, singers of epic and worship song, skilled at musical instruments. There is the Samaritan, a nameless person branded as a heretic by the Chosen People. There is the foolish man going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, traveling alone and thus easy prey for robbers. These six persons allow us considerable material for reflection on how we choose to live in relation to God, to our fellow humans, and to ourselves.

In this narrative, Jesus is a great teacher. His reputation for truth and insight into the human condition has made him popular. He becomes a target for those who believe their social status depends on destroying the reputation and integrity of others. Anyone who can take down Jesus believes they will gain esteem in the eyes of others. These scholars and pundits seek weaknesses in Jesus that they can use to divide and thus win a higher position. But Jesus stands his ground, using a story to make a point.

The scholar of the law is self-assured. Even his question to Jesus implies that he is better than most. He thinks that he can inherit eternal life just as a child inherits the accumulations of their parent. To inherit eternal life for him means following the law. It is a personal, individual matter. Obeying commandments is not a matter of relationships but only a matter of his will-power. Even though his response to Jesus’ question speaks of love of God and of neighbor, we are left with the impression that he knows little about what love is. He asks a follow-up question more to justify his pride than as a search for understanding.

The priest going down from Jerusalem to Jericho is often excused from his failure to assist the naked, bleeding, dying man. He is a person whose service in the Temple brings the God of the covenant present to the assembly. It is often said that this priest would become unclean by touching a dead person and thus be unable to serve in the temple for seven days. That is the excuse we allow this cleric. Yet, this priest isn’t headed to Jerusalem but to Jericho away from the Temple. His thoughts would have focused on his mission to Jericho. What caused him to turn away from the victim? Surely he was moved with compassion for this man. Compassion is a feeling. The word carries with it the sense that it is a gut-wrenching feeling toward a victim. This is the feeling we may have experienced at the sight of the father and his two-year old daughter drowned in the Rio Grande River. Perhaps we remember the little boy whose body washed up on the shores of the Mediterranean as he escaped from the Syrian war. We are moved to compassion in this age of migrations of millions of innocents escaping violence and poverty. Such feelings are compassion.

The Levite going down to Jericho from Jerusalem is also moved by the sight of this dying man in the ditch. He also steps aside from the sight. This is one who is trained in song. Surely he is skilled in the psalms which speak of the love of God for his people, of the songs of lamentation at their difficulties. Surely he understands what he sings. Surely he understands how important it is for the assembly to join in the song-prayers so that the words and music lift each one up into a relationship with God and with other persons. Singing together joins us to each other and to the one to whom we sing.

The Samaritan is the outcast. But yet he is a person of prosperity. He owns an animal he can ride. He has wine and oil with him to bathe and clean the wounds of the unfortunate man. He has cloth to use as bandages to bind up wounds to protect and stop bleeding. He has money with him with which to pay an inn-keeper to take care of the wounded man. He is well-connected enough to have credit that is accepted by the inn-keeper. This Samaritan is clearly a man of means. Yet, prosperity in Jewish culture is a sign of God’s favor. So Jesus presents this Samaritan as favored by God. How can this be that this heretic is favored by God? Isn’t this contrary to conventional wisdom?

The sixth person in this story is the unfortunate man. Some would consider him foolish for traveling alone to Jericho. The road was known for being a place where robbers would attack and rob. The hills around the road made it easy to escape pursuit by military or policing forces. In a sense this is the person we can identify with most easily. We are often attacked by forces over which we have no control. We most often choose to go it alone, practicing the rugged individuality for which Americans are famous. We are the ones who need healing, who need someone to come to our aid. We need to understand we are a community.

At the end of the story the scholar of the law cannot bring himself to answer Jesus’ question. "Who is neighbor to this man?" The answer is "the one who showed mercy." This is a switch. The Samaritan was moved to compassion. Yet the scholar doesn’t use that name. Mercy is compassion moved to action by mercy.

We can take away several thoughts from this encounter of the scholar of the law with Jesus.

The scholar of the law came to try Jesus’ motivation as a criminal is tried in a court of law. He reached into himself and from the pride that resided there wanted to know how to inherit eternal life. His belief was that he could inherit by his own efforts, that salvation was a matter of following laws and precepts. Jesus’ story of the Samaritan turned that pride on its head. It wasn’t compliance with rules and rituals but something more that was more demanding than obedience to rules.

The priest and the Levite belonged to groups that lead assemblies of faithful into a closer union with God. But it was not God alone that this union had as its object. Loving one’s neighbor is as important. Jesus’ story points out those feelings of compassion are not enough. Compassion must lead to mercy. And mercy includes action for the other’s need. Compassion turns inward to safety of self. Mercy turns to loving the other. Martin Luther King, Jr. put it this way: "The priest and Levite ask, ‘What will happen to me if I help this man?’ The Samaritan instead asks, ‘If I don’t help this man, what will happen to him?’"

The covenant of Sinai negotiated by God with Moses has as its purpose the joining together of God with his People. The ritual worship, the songs and music of the Temple are meant to instruct and to inspire the assembly to union with each other and with God. If worship is merely a matter of obligation, then we’re like the scholar who wants to know which laws are necessary for salvation. Worship and coming together in assembly encourage us, give us strength. In that ritual of remembering the practice of union with each other is begun. It must begin with compassion that moves to mercy. Our coming together is exponentially more than a matter of law and obligation. It is love for neighbor. In the practice of that love we come incrementally closer to God who loves us. Living that underlying principle brings discovery of a peace and consummate joy that is a shining light to the nations. The scholar of the law sought participation in the eternal life of God. Practicing mercy toward one another we share in the life of God. For the Jew, as for the Christian, God’s attitude toward us is identified as "loving kindness." When we imitate God’s attitude we live and live more fully. Who can wish for anything else? What else is there better than abundant interior peace and a joyful appreciation of all that is and all that was and all that can be?

Carol & Dennis Keller & Charlie (editor) dkeller002@nc.rr.com

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Volume 2 is for you. Your thoughts, reflections, and insights on the next Sundays readings can influence the preaching you hear. Send them to preacherexchange@att.net.  Deadline is Wednesday Noon. Include your Name, and Email Address.

-- Fr. John


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