10 July 2010

Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

First Reading, Deuteronomy 30:10-14
What Moses is saying to the Israelites is that there is no excuse to plead ignorance of the commandments and statutes of the Lord. This sounds harsh but it is actually a loving plea from Moses. God’s will for them is not ambiguous -- it is clearly written in the book of the Law, therefore, Moses pleads with the people of Israel to return to the Lord with all their heart and soul. This message is timeless. Today, there’s really no reason to be in the fog when it comes to understanding what our Faith teaches. It’s in Sacred Scripture; it’s in the Catechism. Church documents, papal encyclicals, writings of the saints and early Fathers are all over the internet. All that is required is the same that was required of the Israelites -- returning to the Lord with the full extent of heart and soul. What would Moses say of our age of political correctness? Can you even begin to imagine him saying something like: 'It's a good idea to return to the Lord with all your heart and soul, assuming that’s what you really want and it doesn’t interfere with your schedule, and it’s not going to agitate your family or offend your friends'? While this sort of diplomacy will not likely pluck anyone’s nerves, in reality it is a disservice to the hearer. If truth is to be offered with a sincere expression of love it can never be watered down. Truth is not always popular, but it will set us free.

Second Reading, Colossians 1:15-20
'Christ Jesus is the Image of the invisible God'. The Catechism of the Catholic Church reads: 'By His revelation, the invisible God, from the fullness of His love, addresses men as His friends, and moves among them, in order to invite and receive them into His own company' (CCC 142). Saint Thomas Aquinas relates 'Image' with 'prototype' and says that Image has three qualities at the same time:
It must have a likeness with the original prototype.
It must be derived from the prototype.
It must belong to the same species as the prototype.
This explanation of 'Image' delineates that mere likeness alone would not be sufficient. A photograph, for example, is a likeness but it is not an image in the sense that is applied here. By Saint Paul writing that 'Jesus is the Image of the invisible God', he most certainly means God the Father. Therefore, Christ is the Image of God the Father because He exemplifies the Father. Saint John Damascene explains that image in itself does not demand equality with the original model, but we know that Christ, the Image, is identical and equal to the Father in every way. The only difference is that Jesus is begotten. Saint Paul continues this letter by writing that Christ is 'the firstborn of all creation'. This is not a reference to being born of the Virgin Mary. Paul’s meaning is that Jesus was before all creatures, proceeding from all eternity from the Father. Firstborn, then, as it is applied here is a metaphor for pre-existence before creation. Christ is Supreme, Eternal and the final revelation of God because 'all things were created through Him and for Him'. He is the reason and cause of all things and yet as our Creator He does not distance Himself from us, but instead, He thirsts for intimacy with His brothers and sisters by means of His boundless love. Christ is 'the Head of the Body, the Church', and yet His Sovereignty over the members does not deter Him from a close and intense union with them. He is 'the firstborn from the dead' in the sense that He is the first to rise to a new life and in His glorious triumph He is the cause of our resurrection. 'For in Him all the fullness was pleased to dwell'. Generally, 'fullness' is synonymous with 'totality'. In this case, however, fullness more appropriately means 'all existence'. Being reconciled to God through Christ with those on earth primarily means the human race; but what does Paul mean by reconciliation with those in heaven? Saint John Chrysostom defines those in heaven as angels. This doesn't mean, however, that Christ sacrificed Himself for angels. Angels in heaven are totally and unequivocally devoted to the cause and glory of Almighty God. This suggests, then, that before Christ’s redeeming Sacrifice the angels were at enmity with the human race because our sins separated us from God. Christ put an end to this division by restoring us to God’s favor through the Blood of His Cross.

Gospel, Luke 10:25-37
A scholar asks Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus refers him to the Law, of which this man, because he is a scholar, would know like the back of his hand. The scholar quotes the part of the Law that is found in Deuteronomy (6:5). Most likely, any Jew of Christ's day would have answered the same way since these words of the Law are the beginning of what is known as the 'Shema'. This is the ritual prayer that was required to be said by every Jew twice a day. What’s interesting about the scholar’s answer, though, is that he added the words 'and your neighbor as yourself'. This is not part of the Deuteronomy text or the Shema but is found in the Book of Leviticus (19:18). The Law did require neighborly love but was almost never referenced by the doctors of the Law. The combination of the two biblical texts is found nowhere in the rabbinical writings. It would seem that Saint Luke is presenting this scholar to us as a man who is not committed to the Law in the traditional sense, but who was able to discern the spirit of the old Law and thus surmised that Jesus was a kindred Soul. Jesus, Who knows what’s in the heart of every human being obviously saw that this man was indeed a scholar beyond the traditional sense because the parable that Jesus tells involves a Samaritan; and the relationship between Jews and Samaritans was not pleasant as Saint John's Gospel makes note of: 'Jews have nothing to do with Samaritans' (John 4:9). Keep in mind, though, Samaritans also followed the Pentateuch and regarded Moses as their teacher. The contrast in Christ’s story is vivid. On one hand, there is a wounded man, presumably a Jew. He was stripped, beaten and left for dead. A priest and a Levite, both of whom earn their living from the offerings of the people, at least by human standards and conscience would be more obligated to the command of neighborly love and concern. Both, however, ignore the wounded man and pass him by. On the other hand, a Samaritan who is not well-liked as it is, and who is also walking in unfriendly territory, shows compassion to the wounded man. This story makes it abundantly clear that our neighbor is anyone and everyone in need. Upon further review, which has already been done for us by many of the early Church Fathers, this reveals that there’s more to this Gospel passage than meets the eye. The Fathers teach us that Jesus is also speaking allegorically and this story has a much deeper meaning. The Samaritan is actually a representation of Christ. The wounded man represents the condition of the human race before our Lord's Supreme Sacrifice on the Cross. The robbers represent the devil that stripped the human race of their supernatural gifts and wounded our relationship with our heavenly Father. The priest and Levite represent the Old Covenant. The oil and wine represents the Sacraments while the inn where the wounded man was taken to receive care represents the Church. Finally, the innkeeper represents Saint Peter, his successors, the bishops and priests. Saint Jerome, Saint Ambrose, Origen and many others are all in agreement on this. The Catechism of the Catholic Church summarizes this Gospel with the following: 'Our Father desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. His commandment is that you love one another. This commandment summarizes all the others and expresses His entire will' (CCC 2822).