Friends, if I were to pick one word today to highlight the readings for this 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time, it would be, “compassion.” All three readings speak to this virtue and when we think about following in our brother Jesus’ footsteps, it seems that we couldn’t really choose a better way to go then, “to walk compassionately through our world.”
Now, that having been said, I want to underscore that this isn’t something that will necessarily, of itself, make things better, at least, right away. The more we come to understand the Scriptures, Old and New, we see how our God has worked and continually works through our lives and those of others, to make them good.
Each of us, as the spiritual creatures that we are, here, having a human experience, as someone once wisely said, come into existence already hard-wired to love. Of course, as we all know, living and exercising our free wills sometimes get in the way of making the most compassionate and loving response.
So, as we think about the struggles each of us faces in this life, trying to balance our call to “walk compassionately through this world,” while exercising our free wills to sometimes choose what we think is best for ourselves without perhaps, doing what might be good for others too; let’s look to today’s Scriptures for some guidance.
In the first reading from Deuteronomy, Moses tells the people, in other words, that they are indeed, “hard-wired to love,” by saying that “the Word of God is [already] in your mouth and in your heart.” He encourages them by saying, [all you really need to do is] “return to the Most High with all your heart and soul.”
I think the distinction that is being made in this first reading is significant and one that we shouldn’t miss! What Moses is really talking about is “how,” we choose to live in our world. He is basically contrasting what I will call, “head versus heart living.” If we respond to our world, our God, and to others through our hearts, basically, instead of our heads, primarily, we will have a much better chance of acting with compassion to what life brings.
Unfortunately, too many in this world respond to life and its people through their heads—rules and regulations and get stuck there. Rules and regulations are about, “black and white” answers—this or that, right or wrong.
If I had followed my call to priesthood through my head alone, I wouldn’t be here today, nor would any of you! The hierarchical church sees the ordination of women as impossible! This is significant, I think, as on June 29th of this year, Roman Catholic Women Priests celebrated 20 years since the Danube 7 said, “Yes” to being the first women to be ordained! The hierarchy see “imaging” Jesus, the man, at our altars, which ultimately, in their minds, excludes women, instead of “imaging” Christ, who includes us all. The fact that each of us came into this world, hard-wired to love, allows us to widen our thinking, directing it through our hearts so as to do the most loving thing in every situation. “Heads,” guided by laws alone, may not be able to see women as priests, but “hearts,” guided by love and the message of Jesus, certainly can! But make no mistake, the most loving thing can and will cause division at times, but it will always, ultimately bring peace too, for those who can break out of the box of the simple, “right and wrong.”
Paul, in his letter to the Colossians today gives us a glimpse of this wider thinking—he says, “Christ is the image of the unseen God” [and] “all things were created through and in Christ.” Somehow, friends, even though our “heads” can’t quite encompass or completely understand, our “hearts” can know that through Jesus’ living, loving, dying, and rising, he became the Christ, who includes and loves us all in a non-hierarchical way. And if we too can more often live our lives through our hearts, the compassion that our world so badly needs, now, may become more obvious.
Our final reading today comes from the gospel of Luke—a story well known to us all—that of the “Good Samaritan.” So, we might ask, why, a Samaritan who is, “good?”
Samaritans, in the minds of the Jewish people were a group to shun, much like through the history of humankind, the majority, or the powerful, find someone to blame for what may not be “right” in life: blacks, native Americans, women, LGBTQs+. It is always easier to blame others than it is to look squarely at a problem and find our fault there too.
Actually, Samaritans were of the Jewish faith, but were those who had grown lax in that faith and intermarried during the time of the Exile, when some Jews were taken, and some left behind. So, until the time of Jesus, Samaritans became the “ones” to look down on. We see the wisdom then of our brother Jesus in forming a story depicting a loving act being done for someone that both a priest and a Levite refused to help—by someone who they both shunned in their daily lives.
So friends, that is why I said earlier that Moses was really lifting up the importance of “how” we live our daily lives. It doesn’t, in the end, matter who we are, or where we come from—but really, “how” we live our lives. Jesus too knew this –you will recall it being said of him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”
I think some very current examples of this truth are the mis-guided, “locked in the box,” decisions coming out of the highest court in our land in recent weeks. It seems to me that the recent Supreme Court decisions regarding climate change, Roe v. Wade, and guns were black and white—head responses to issues that needed compassionate heart answers to very difficult questions.
The right-to-life may start in the womb, but it certainly doesn’t stop there! Any high court ruling regarding nonviable human substance outside the womb that doesn’t include the life of the woman is simply a sham. Now of course, we all know that this isn’t “simple”—not by a long shot.
Laws granting rights to companies to misuse and abuse our planet through what they emit into the atmosphere, without regard to global warming, a condition detrimental to all life, is once again, a sham.
And finally, laws “respecting” the rights of individuals to own guns and use them without consideration for the harm done daily in this, our beloved country to people of every age, sex and nationality is, as well, a sham. We have trusted those with legal power and understanding to work for justice for all—to hold a delicate balance between right and good and that which is wrong, irresponsible, and evil and I fear they have squandered our trust for political gain!
Our brother Jesus wisely taught us in the story of the “good Samaritan” to always see a bigger picture than at first meets the eye. He tells us that we don’t or shouldn’t judge actions on the merit of nationality—where someone comes from, their gender, their rank; but more so on the “heart”—what does the heart produce?
So friends, no easy answers to these very big questions of our day—except to keep doing our part—each of us! If you are in a box that doesn’t allow a new way to look for solutions, break that box open where the light of day will show you the way to your heart where the answers based on love reside! Amen? Amen!