July 7, 2010
Breaking Open the Word
By James Cavanagh
July 11: 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Overview: The first reading is from Moses’ farewell discourse to the Israelites who are about to enter the Promised Land. After 40 long years in the wilderness, Israel had finally begun to learn the ways of God and how to act like free, responsible people. All of the laws and statutes that Israel learned along the way, all of the rules and regulations were but expressions of the two-fold commandment to love God and neighbor. All the commandments are summed up in this one commandment, which “is not mysterious or remote; it is in your mouth and in your heart. You have only to carry it out.” The second reading is believed to be an early hymn to Christ. The first part of the reading speaks of Christ as the pre-existent Wisdom existing “before all things.” Christ’s preeminence over creation is not one of dominance and antagonism, but of love and service. “For God sent his Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved” (Jn 3:17). In Christ God has reconciled the world to himself “making peace by the blood of the cross.” The parable of the Good Samaritan is one of best known stories in the whole Bible. But our familiarity with it might make us to miss the odd, but important twist at the end, which comes when Jesus says to the lawyer: “Go and do likewise.” “Neighborliness,” in other words, is not a quality found in others, but a quality in us; it means that we are called to be neighbor by doing the right thing at the right time in the right way, no matter who the person happens to be.
Key verse: “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart … and your neighbor as yourself” (Lk 10:27).
“Catechism of the Catholic Church”: “The heart is the place of decision, deeper than our psychic drives. It is the place of truth, where we choose life or death. It is the place of encounter, because as image of God we live in relation: it is the place of covenant” (No. 2563).
Pope Benedict XVI: “Charity always manifests God’s love in human relationships; it gives theological and salvific value to all commitment for justice in the world” (Caritas in Veritate, 6).
Life application: Love is not a sentiment or a warm feeling. It’s not a function of the emotions, but of the will. That is why the love of God and love of neighbor can be a commandment. God can’t command feelings; but he can command justice. And he does: “Go, and do likewise.” Loving God and loving our neighbor is simple; but not always easy. Sometimes it’s a struggle to love God who you can’t see; sometimes it’s a struggle to love those you can see! But thanks be to God, in Christ, we can do both.
James Cavanagh is director of Evangelization and Catechesis for Metro-Area Parishes of the Denver Archdiocese. Cavanagh’s column is distributed by the Denver Catholic Register.