Tuesday, July 12, 2016


By Deacon Jerry Franzen,  Cathedral     July 10, 2016
Deuteronomy 30: 10-14    Colossians1: 15-20    Luke 10:25-37

Praised Be Jesus Christ.    Good Morning.

Let me place today’s Gospel in the context
of what has gone before in Luke’s 10th Chapter.
Last week we heard of the sending of the 72 on their mission
to spread the Gospel.
What we have not heard in between the Gospel reading
of last week and today is that the 72 on their return
expressed their surprise at the success of their mission.
Jesus affirmed their successes
and offered a prayer of praise to the Father.
In it he says:
“I give you praise, Father, Lord of heaven and earth,
for although you have hidden these things from the wise
and the learned
you have revealed them to the childlike.”

Apparently those who took to heart the message of the 72
received it as children would.
And now today we have the scholar of the law,
one of the learned, certainly not “childlike”, questioning Jesus.
Notice Jesus does not give a direct answer to the question:
“Who is my neighbor?”
Jesus seldom gave a direct answer
to those who questioned Him.
He doesn’t tell the scholar who his neighbor is.
His answer is not a further explanation of the law.
His answer is the story of the Good Samaritan.
A child would not stop and try to figure out
just what the words of the law meant in this case.   
A child would better respond to a story for help.
A child would not stop and try to figure out
whether a priest or levite would be declared “unclean”
by touching the blood of an injured person,
or whether helping an Israelite,
the Samaritan’s enemy, was proper.
Samaritans and Jews did not like each other.

A child would see an injured person and want to help.
The story is a powerful illustration of the compassion
God expects of us toward others.
This encounter with one of the learned gives us a glimpse
of what Jesus meant when he praised God for
what had been revealed to “the childlike.”


The scholar knew the letter of the law.
He quoted it to Jesus, and Jesus agreed.
Religious scholars of Jesus’ time had to know the law,
probably had to memorize the words of this law
so they could quote it when needed.
In Mosaic Law, “neighbor” was probably interpreted
as “fellow Israelite.”
Maybe the scholar wanted to use this label “neighbor” to                         justify his resistance to loving those
outside the Israelite nation.
It would certainly make life easier for him.
Israelite? OK.  I can love you.
Not an Israelite?  I don’t have to love you.
Apparently the enemy from the land of Samaria actually
considered the Israelite his “neighbor.”

The ancestors of the people of Samaria were Israelites
who were captured by pagans, then taken to Samaria
and subsequently intermarried with
and worshiped with the pagans.
So they were considered to be like traitors by the Isrealites.
For Jesus, a neighbor is not one labeled by locality
or relationship,  but a neighbor can be identified
by what he or she does.
The scholar wanted to focus on the labels placed on people;
children identify persons by what they see them do.
It’s the letter of the old Law vs Jesus’ spirit of the law.
It is something about which we must be reminded
on a regular basis.


There are many examples of laws
that are part of Christianity and Catholicism.
Do we approach them as the scholar or as children?
Not, “What does the letter of the law say?”; but,
“What does the spirit of the law demand that we do?”
The following may illustrate this:
One might ask”
“Is it really a serious, i.e. mortal, sin to miss Mass on Sunday?”
Many Catholics don’t bother to get to Mass every Sunday.
They obviously do not think that it is a serious matter.
What does the Law say?
The Canon Law of the Church says,
“Yes, it is a serious sin to deliberately miss Mass on Sunday
or the vigil Mass on Saturday.”
So, If I were on cruise ship on a Sunday
and no Mass was available so I couldn’t go to Mass,
is that still a mortal sin?  Of course not.
One must deliberately ignore a reasonable opportunity
to get to Mass
If I went to a wedding Mass late Saturday afternoon,
Do I still have to go on Sunday?

It is easy to play the part of the probing, testing scholar,
to see how the law can be interpreted to our advantage.
Must I be present at the very beginning;
how late can I come and still have it “count?”
How early can I leave and still have it “count?”
We can even go further:
“Is it sufficient that I just attend or ‘hear’ Mass
from beginning to end?”
“Do I have to sing, say the responses, profess the creed?”
“Do I have to be attentive to the Sacred Scriptures
and the homily?”
“Do I have to receive communion?”

The real answers are not found in simple statements.
The Mass is the most important weekly chance we have
to gather with others in our faith community
to grow closer to God.
The Mass - Word and Eucharist,
is the most important means to our salvation.
We might very well ask the same question,
          “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
The answer is found in comparing our actions
to the spirit of the law.
Jesus ended his answer with a question for the scholar.
Let me pose a few questions here for our consideration.


“Can we profess to love the Lord, our God,
with all our heart
and then give it the half-hearted approach
of not leaving home in time to be here
at the beginning and not caring enough
to stay till the very end?” 

“Can we profess to love the Lord, our God, with all our being
and miss the most important thing we do as Church,
this weekly nurturing of our relationship with God,
the joining of our being with our Savior
in Word and Communion?” 

“Can we profess to love the Lord, our God,
with all our strength and not make the effort
to sing or speak?”

“Can we profess to love the Lord, our God, with all our mind
and not pay attention to the Word of God?” 

We are here for ourselves, for our salvation, for eternal life.
What we do is so much more important
          than the letter of the law.

And, let us not forget the last part of the law quoted:
How must I love my neighbor in all of this?
The Law said: As myself.
Everything I do for myself, I must do for my neighbor.
We are here today to fulfill an obligation,
an obligation for ourselves AND for our neighbor.
We must care enough about those around us
to be here to make them feel welcome at the beginning,
to extend the peace of Christ to them
and to not skip out on them early.
We must affirm and support one another
in our attention to Word and prayer,
in our singing, in our responses
and in our profession of faith.
We must remember that we become
the collective Body of Christ with those “others”
as we receive the Body of Christ.

Would it be a mortal sin to turn our back on these
opportunities that God has granted for our salvation?
Yes, that’s serious.
Would it then also be a mortal sin to not be here
to do the best we can to aid
in the salvation of our neighbor? I think so.

The answer to how we must follow the greatest commandment
is not far removed from us far up in the shy,
not removed from us way across the sea.
It cannot be found in fine-tuned dissertations for the learned.
It is already in our mouths and in our hearts.
We must seek the answers as children; we, like children,
must look to the appropriate actions and carry them out.