[15th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year C, July 10, 2016 /
Deut 30:10-14 / Ps 69:14+17, 30-31, 33-34, 36a+37 /
Col 1:15-20 / Luke 10:25-37]
THERE was an octopus that once became quite famous for its uncanny ability to predict the winner of the world cup soccer matches. Many swore that the octopus never failed.
There are many things you can put your hope in. Outside one of the big churches in Manila, in Quiapo, you will find many fortune tellers, palmists and tarot card readers.
Allegedly for a sum of money they guarantee to be able to tell your future. Where do we put our certainty? Is there something that never fails, that can be trusted? St. Paul said there is one thing that never fails and that is love. There is someone who never fails us and that is Christ, the head of the Cosmos, the one who reigns over all principalities and powers. He desires that we put all our trust in him. He, as the psalmist reminds us, has the words of Spirit and life.
Once, I was talking to a man who sells corn by the side of the road. He was surprised to find out that God is with us. Christ is not far from us, neither are his words of love far away or inaccessible to us. The first reading of today reminds us of this, telling us that the Word is not far from us but it is in our mouth and in our hearts (Deuteronomy 30:10-14). We have only to carry it out!
This is the advice that Jesus gives the scholar of the law who was curious about eternal life. The scholar knew the answers but Jesus reminded him to put them into practice! “Do this and you will live,” Jesus told him. Like him, we know many things but we should remember to put them into practice, too. Let us not be afraid to risk everything for love.
Jesus gives us the example of the Good Samaritan. He was not afraid to love, to take the risk to cross over to the other side and complicate his life. The priest and the Levite walked on by but the Samaritan was moved by compassion. He poured oil and wine on the wounds of the man who was half beaten to death, bandaged his wounds and then put him on his own mount. He then said to the innkeeper, “Take care of him. If you spend more than what I have given you, I shall repay you on my way back.” It is as if Jesus is talking to us directly about our good deeds. We needn’t look for the reward right now but when Jesus comes back. St. John Chrysostom noted that being on this earth is not the time for honor and wreaths but of contest and sweat. We are not to look for prizes but for the battle. We will have the whole of eternity to rest.
Jesus taught us who our neighbor is. The scholar of the Law had asked, “Who is my neighbor?” and Jesus responds with, “Which one made himself neighbor?” Commenting on this, Pope emeritus Benedict XVI wrote in “Deus Caritas est,” an encyclical about love, “Until that time, the concept of ‘neighbor’ was understood as referring essentially to one’s countrymen and to foreigners who had settled in the land of Israel; in other words, to the closely-knit community of a single country or people. This limit is now abolished. Anyone who needs me, and whom I can help, is my neighbor. The concept of “neighbor” is now universalized, yet it remains concrete. Despite being extended to all mankind, it is not reduced to a generic, abstract and undemanding expression of love, but calls for my own practical commitment here and now.” (DCE no. 15)
In our doing good to our neighbors let us stake all on charity. Let us take the risk and believe in love. One person who risked all for love was St. Thérèse of Lisieux. When she was 15 she said that she wanted to become a saint. She entered the convent and one day became irritated because, while washing the dishes, one sister inadvertently kept splashing her with water. Thérèse decided to be calm and offer it all to God out of love. Not just any love, but a pure love. She even declared that in the body of Christ she would be the heart full of love. And what a transcendence that little life had! She died at only 24 but was declared a Doctor of the Church, taking her place alongside the greats like St. Thomas and St. Augustine. When her relics visited England, my family said that they felt her presence even though the relics were 50 miles away.
Love never fails. Even our friendly octopus will eventually let us down, but we can risk everything for Christ. Let us be courageous and stake all on charity.