By Deacon Jerry Franzen, Cathedral July 10, 2016
Deuteronomy 30: 10-14 Colossians 1: 15-20 Luke 10:25-37
Praised Be Jesus Christ Good (Morning, Afternoon, Evening)
Today’s parable from St. Luke’s 10th Chapter
should be very familiar to all of us.
This scholar asks Jesus some questions.
Jesus recognizes that the scholar can quote the law,
but there is this part about “neighbor.”
Jesus tells him the story about the Good Samaritan
to enlighten him on just who is his neighbor AND
to show him just what it means to “love you neighbor as yourself.”
Whatever he is called to do for himself out of self-love
he must, in the same way, do out of love for others.
Knowing the letter of the law is one thing.
What we actually do shows how we follow the spirit of the Law.
The love we are always talking about when speak of Godly love
is that love for another rooted in what we do in sacrifice for another.
Jesus was telling the scholar what he must do
to follow the spirit of the Law, and we must do the same.
I would imagine that this is the usual focus
of most homilies on this reading.
But, let’s review what the scholar quoted:
“You shall love the Lord, your God,
with all your heart,
with all your being,
with all your strength,
and with all your mind,
and you neighbor as yourself.”
How do we approach the teachings of the Church?
Do we parse the words, as we suspect the scholar did,
looking for loopholes in the letter of the law?
Do we worry MORE about,
“What is the letter of the law?” than
“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?”
Is turning my back on God and rejecting his salvation
really that serious?
Many Catholics don’t bother to get to Mass every Sunday.
It obviously is not a serious matter for them.
What does the Law say?
The Canon Law of the Church says that it is a serious sin
to deliberately miss the Sunday Mass.
So, if I were sick in bed and couldn’t go to Mass,
is that still a mortal sin? Of course not.
The letter of the Law says that one must deliberately miss
a reasonable opportunity to get to Mass.
It is easy to play the part of the probing, testing scholar
to see how the law can be interpreted to our advantage.
But what about the spirit of the Law?
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?”
It use to be that you were OK,
if you got to Mass before the beginning of the part
called the Offertory and didn’t leave until
after you received Holy Communion.
We can even go further:
“Is it sufficient that I just attend or ‘hear’ Mass
from beginning to end, just be there?”
“Do I have to sing the congregational hymns,
say the responses when required, profess the creed?”
“Do I have to be attentive to the Sacred Scriptures and the homily?”
Do I have to mentally pray along with the priest
as he says the various prayers of the Mass?
“Do I have to receive Holy Communion?”
Those answers are not found in the letter of the Law,
But what about the spirit of the Law.
The Mass is the most important thing we do each week.
It is the weekly chance we have to gather with others
in our faith community in order to grow closer to God.
The Mass is the source and summit of all Christian life;
it is the most important means to our salvation.
We might very well ask the same question as the scholar,
“Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
Jesus ended his answer with a question for the scholar.
Let me pose a few more questions here for our consideration
in relation to the Mosaic Law as the scholar presented it.
I know that I am preaching to the choir, as they say,
but I think that these questions bear asking.
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart,”
“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?” (pause)
“with all your being”
“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?” (pause)
“with all your strength”
“Can we profess to love the Lord, our God,
with all our strength and not make the effort
to sing the hymns or speak the responses?” (pause)
“with all your mind”
“Can we profess to love the Lord, our God, with all our mind
and not pay attention to the Word of God
or to the homily, and to not pray along with the priest
as he says the prayers of the Mass?” (pause)
We are here for ourselves, for our salvation, for eternal life.
But, 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 our neighbors
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 do the best we can
to aid in the salvation of our neighbor? I think so.
The answer to how we must follow God’s directions
is not far removed from us far up in the shy,
not removed from us way across the sea
as Moses explained to the Israelites.
It cannot be found in fine-tuned dissertations of the learned.
It is already in our mouths and in our hearts.