Chapter Talk – 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time – July 10, 2022, cycle-C
‘For this command that I enjoin upon you today’ (Dt 30:11)….and what is this command? It is one simple word, a word so multi-faceted and complex, and still simple, straight-forward….something we all know from very young. We are stamped with the Divine word of love…this is the essence of God’s command, and it is the nature of God…Love embodies the totality of who God is. Jesus is the incarnate manifestation of Divine love and through him this unconditional love is now woven into our hearts and into the cells of our humanity. Every human person is stamped with love… ‘agape’ love…God’s love…we have been loved first and that love beckons us from birth to death.
Fr. Hans Urs von Balthasar in his commentary on this Sunday’s gospel from St. Luke (10:25-37) wrote: “‘Samaritan’ is a pseudonym for Jesus” (Light of the Word, p.330). He further commented: “The mark of Christ is found in the extravagance of involvement, which points to the answer that Jesus gave to the question about eternal life: ‘Love with your whole heart’, not only God, but also your neighbor” (p.330). This extravagance of love is how we each are loved…and, right now. This extravagance of love received is what opens our heart wide enough to love with extravagant action, not counting the cost, not even thinking about the cost.
In a conversation I had with Abbot Steele we were talking about the geography and the landscape at the time of Jesus. He mentioned that when he visited Jerusalem, he walked the road to Jericho. This road, he said, was not a four-lane highway. It was narrow, not wide. Why is this significant? It shows how close the injured person was to the priest and Levite who passed him by and did nothing to help. Do we not at times take this distance from a sister, brother, or neighbor, one in need or one whom we have difficulty? There is something bothersome or negative and we push away the compassionate voice and inner invitation that lingers around our heart, waiting for a change in attitude. We are all victim to this distancing ourselves from someone who is in need. We pretend to not have ‘noticed’. To become extravagant as Jesus in loving we must face those hardened parts surrounding our hearts. One of the most difficult things to get lose from is self-righteousness, especially when self-righteous attitudes grip or take hold of our minds and hearts. We can only imagine what the ‘priest and Levite’ in the story were murmuring in their hearts. In many ways they placed themselves above their neighbor. And so, what can break through, what can break our hearts open a little to transform, to heal what hardens the heart, what hardens our demeanor towards someone? We must beg for compassion and mercy, first towards ourselves and then towards the brother or sister in need. I am not talking about the person on the street but the person in my own community, the person close to me every day.
In describing the purpose of parables and to give us a sense of what Jesus is doing in the ‘Good Samaritan’ parable, Pope Benedict XVI says that “knowledge of God always lays claim to the whole person—that such knowledge is one with life itself, and that it cannot exist without ‘repentance’. For in this world, marked by sin, the gravitational pull of our lives is weighted by the chains of the ‘I’ and the ‘self’. These chains must be broken to free us for a new love that places us in another gravitational field where we can enter new life” (Jesus of Nazareth, p.193-194). ‘A new love, new life’ placing us in a larger horizon for loving, a more encompassing gravitational field imbued with mercy and compassion. Isn’t this a profound way to express what ‘repentance’ is, how true change and transformation happen? Repentance, a turning from and a turning towards, breaking those chains of self-centeredness, control, self-righteousness to free us for a new love, a love that is in synch with the extravagant love of Christ.
In commenting on the Samaritan parable, Pope Benedict adds: “The two characters in this story are relevant to every single human being. Everyone is ‘alienated,’ especially from love…; everyone must first be healed and filled with God’s gifts. But then everyone is called to become a Samaritan—to follow Christ and become like him. When we do that, we live rightly. We love rightly when we become like him, who loved us all first” (p.201). Dear sisters, as these chains are broken, we become free to love. Our inner priest and Levite are now met with a Divine love that has ‘wrenched their hearts’ open, and suddenly we see an amazing embrace between them and their Samaritan brother.
This parable is not just about the wounded one along the roadside. It is first about the state of our heart and inner life. To be guardians, attentive to what is stirring there, to be receptive to the love of God that is always hovering over our hearts and our lives. Let us receive this love, let it open us, change us from inside, and free us to love with the same mind and heart of Christ, ourselves, and one another.
Sr. Kathy DeVico, Abbess