Do we really get it?

Tom Bartolomeo
15th Sunday Ordinary C 2013
Deuteronomy 30: 10-14; Psalm 69;
Colossians 1: 15-20; Luke 10: 25-37
Reproduced with Permission

Let's put ourselves for a moment in Moses', Paul's and Jesus' place in this world. We heard Moses bid farewell to the Jews whom he had led through the desert for forty years before it was nearly over. Then God suddenly forbids Moses from personally setting foot in the promised land because he had doubted God's power many years before when the rebellious Jews exasperated Moses with their complaints at Meriba and Massah. But God would not prevent the irreverent Jews from settling in the promised land. God did allow Moses to climb a nearby mountain and at least see the promised land before he would die. His lieutenant Joshua would take God's people into the land God had promised Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Hardly seems fair, and for what, Moses' impatience with God's people when they challenged him? They were so much more offensive to God than Moses. Perhaps, God loved Moses more than them, and this would be God's last chance to elevate Moses's stature in his kingdom where he would soon enter forever. (cf. Deuteronomy 30, 10 ff).

God revered Moses. He saw in Moses and other saints images of his Son who would lead all of us to his Father bravely taking on our diseased nature and not consumed with personal welfare. The scholar in the gospel who questioned Jesus, "Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" was not such a man. His motives were dubious at best. We are told that this expert in the law was testing Jesus - more a matter of Jesus meeting his standards. Was Jesus the read deal? This scholar was a man of the law, Mosaic law, who not only knew the letter of the law, the Ten Commandments but all the hundreds of precepts of the law besides. When prompted by Jesus to answer his own question he revealed his knowledge of the law, "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 your neighbor as yourself", but when he asked Jesus to explain, "And who is my neighbor?" he revealed that he knew nothing about the spirit of the law. (Luke 10: 25-37). He was expecting a long scholarly dissertation of the law drawn from the many precepts of the law devised by Moses and recorded in the Bible. He couldn't connect the one word which links God and all of us, love. God makes no distinction of persons in this world or the next as the Apostle Paul preached, "For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body--Jews or Greeks, slaves or free--and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. (1 Corinthians 12:12-14). In the same context we also have Saint Paul saying, "In him [Jesus] were created all things in heaven and on earth, the visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers; all things were created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together."

(Colossians 1, 16-17). Both men, Moses and the Apostle Paul lived their lives "on earth as it is in heaven" which we pray so frequently, but do we understand our place in God's world? Heaven requires complete conversion and nothing less. Saint Paul on his conversion remarked, "I know a person in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven--whether in the body or out of the body I do not know; God knows. And I know that such a person--whether in the body or out of the body I do not know; God knows . . . . (2 Corinthians 12, 2-3). Paul now knows. Moses now knows. When Moses along with Elijah appeared at Christ's transfiguration Moses had literally come down from heaven to be with Christ among whom were the Apostles, Peter, James and John. We need to keep in proper perspective our relationship with God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit--grateful that the Son of God adopted our human nature which now resides in the Godhead.

Jesus could have engaged the scholar or any of us in the fine points of the law - make Sunday Mass and do what we have to do--but that is not the good news of the gospel Jesus taught. He taught as he told us in his parables as he did in today's gospel story of the Good Samaritan. It could have been a story Jesus invented to illustrate the love of God's law--that talk of love doesn't compare to the act of love particularly for an enemy as with the Samaritan who so generously came to the aid of his sworn enemy, a Jew. Imagine a Muslim enemy of ours helping anyone of us in need. Would we reciprocate? If we only love those who love us, Jesus taught, then we have received our reward and should not expect anything more from God. (cf. Matthew 5, 46). It is love of our adversaries which matters most, not just tolerance but real love. When was the last instance which involved any of us in such love?

We can too easily settle on some comfortable relationship with God who didn't ask any of us, Should God the Father have decided and should Jesus, his Son, have accepted the price of our ransom from eternal death? For our part, it is rather convenient, loving God in word only. Nothing strenuous or blood letting about that. We may even take comfort in making God into someone made more in our image than his. So much of our praying begins with, God, help me with this or that. But not everyone who says, "Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom of heaven", we know. (Matthew 7, 21). It is ironic that Moses, the great lawgiver, in his farewell speech to the Jews did not mention one of God's commandments or precepts in the Torah which comprises most of the Book of Deuteronomy which he wrote. Today in our land the letter of the law often seems more important than the value of the law which allows and encourages same sex marriage, contraception, abortion, sterilization and euthanasia. Without the love of God's law, not just its forbearance, our happiness in this life and in eternity may be in jeopardy. Moses would finally in his last days on earth have his people follow the law of God in their hearts. They had begrudgingly followed the letter of the law being led through the desert by a cloud during the day and a fiery sphere at night. All they had to do, they thought, was to continue to follow directions when a sensitive and worthy conscience was required. Entering the promised land they were enjoined by God to build his kingdom "on earth as it is in heaven". They were to become the nation God had promised Abraham, a people as numerous as the stars in the sky or the sand on the shore. "This command", Moses told them, "I enjoin on you today is not too mysterious and remote for you. It is not up in the sky, that you should say, "Who will go up in the sky to get it for us and tell us of it, that we may carry it out?" (Deuteronomy 30, 11-14). It was time for them and for us to take full responsibility for our conduct and not expect God's intervention as, for instance, when the Jews were pursued by Pharaoh's army and God allowed them to "cross the sea [and] . . . say, 'Who will cross the sea to get it for us and tell us of it that we may carry it out? No, it is something very near to you, already in your mouths and in your hearts; you have only to carry it out." We should ask, What is "it" which Moses repeatedly spoke of and how should we pursue it with our whole heart, being, strength and mind?