July 9, 2010

Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time / Msgr. Owen F. Campion

The Sunday Readings

Msgr. Owen CampionThe Book of Deuteronomy is one of the first five books of the Bible, collectively called the Pentateuch, from the Greek word meaning “five.”

In terms of impact upon the development of the ancient Hebrew concept of religion, these books were most important. Together, they comprise the “Torah,” the basic pattern of how true followers of the God of Israel should live.

Central among all these books is Moses. He speaks to the people on God’s behalf. He calls the people to obey God’s commandments.

However, authentic obedience is much more than mere lip service, insincere motions or half-hearted gestures. Rather, as Moses insists, again speaking for God, obedience to God’s law reveals a person’s complete dedication to God. Obeying commandments must show a totally committed attitude of heart.

Moses also makes clear to the people that God—while almighty and invisible, and therefore neither human nor bound to the Earth—is aware of human lives and is communicating with humans.

The Epistle to the Colossians provides the second reading for this weekend.

Originally, it was written to the Christians in Colossae, a relatively important city in the Roman Empire’s northern Mediterranean world. The spiritual vitality of these Christians was the 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. He is seen, however, in the Lord Jesus, who rules over all creation and over all creatures. He is the head of the Church.

The Church, this community, visible and alive with the very life of the Holy Spirit, was much, much more than a coincidental gathering of persons professing Jesus as Lord. In the Church is the spirit of Jesus. Through Jesus is the way to eternal life.

All this indicates how aware the first Christians were to the reality of the believing community, of the Church, as now this community of believers is known.

St. Luke’s Gospel provides a very basic concept of Christian theology.

Jesus says that the true disciple must love God above all and love neighbor as self.

At times, this admonition is presented as if it were a new development in theology, as if ancient Judaism concerned itself only with outward manifestations of obedience to God, and worship of God, without regard to the deep intentions of the heart.

This interpretation is incorrect. Ancient belief among Hebrews, as evidenced in this weekend’s first reading, also required a genuine offering of the mind and heart to God.

This reading gives us the familiar and beautiful story of the Good Samaritan. This story has inspired Christians all through the centuries, yet it is forever fresh.

The key to understanding the story is the disdain in which Jews of the first century A.D. held Samaritans. They regarded Samaritans almost as incapable of holiness or goodness.

Jesus clearly taught the obvious. Everyone must love others, and everyone can love others. No one is beyond being good.


American culture has advanced much in the past 40 years. Americans are more alert to, and rejecting of, prejudice. Still, prejudice lives in this country. It is directed against any manner of human targets.

The story of the Good Samaritan is more than simply a call to charity and compassion. It is that, but also is a proclamation of the dignity of each person, as in the case of the victim of the robbers, and the potential of each person to do good, as in the person of the Samaritan.

We all may be Samaritans from time to time, set apart from God by our sin. We can return to God. Loving God and loving others mean more than emotion. It means obeying God and showing love for all. †

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