Welcome Back to Banquet of the Word!
Join us every week for background on this Sunday readings.
Our mission is simple:
We want to help everyone in “pew-land” get more out of mass.
Did you know?
This timeline will significantly help your understanding of the Old Testament – especially the first 5 OT books (referred to as the Pentateuch).
1) The first law God gave to His chosen people were the 10 commandments. These were written on 2 tablets and handed to the Israelites by Moses after God split the Red Sea. Moses got “1-on-1” time with God (a super huge honor).
2) Shortly thereafter, the Israelites erected the Golden Calf and began to worship it (idol-worship = a BIG no-no).
3) God became very angry at their disobedience. Moses interceded for the people.
The book of “Deuteronomy” – whee we start today’s mass – is what happens next. It is God’s way to mobilize the Israelites. In essence, the book of Deuteronomy is a commentary on the 10 commandments, an “instruction manual” if you will.
1st reading: Deuteronomy 30:10-14
(The 1st Reading is Old Testament. It always links to the Gospel.)
This book is 34 chapters in length, so we’re closes to the end. At this point in the book, Moses is speaking to the Israelites about the laws he has given them in the previous 29 chapters or so. He’s trying to encourage them. “You can do it!” he tells them. “You CAN follow the law of the Lord! It’s already very near to you – just do what is deep within your hearts and carry it out.” We must all heed this advice from Moses.
“If only you would heed the voice of the LORD, your God,
and keep his commandments and statutes
that are written in this book of the law,
when you return to the LORD, your God,
with all your heart and all your soul.”
He continues to reinforce that this law is not abstract nor difficult:
“For this command that 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?’
Nor is it across the sea, that you should 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.”
In the gospel today, the Good Samaritan DOES heed this advice. He does reach out to help, and in doing so, he fulfills both the Old Testament law (written in Deuteronomy) and the New Testament law Jesus gives, to love your neighbor as yourself.
Psalm 19: Your words, Lord, are Spirit and Life
Psalm 69: Turn to the Lord in your need, and you will live.
(The Psalm is a “response” to what we heard in the 1st Reading)
Whatever psalm is chosen by your pastor today, the concept and message is the same. God’s word is life to us. If we follow his word – his law – which was just read to us in the 1st reading, we will live uprightly, and as he desires us to live.
2nd reading: Colossians 1:15-20
(The 2nd reading is usually from Paul’s letters. It speaks to how the early church was built after Christ’s death and resurrection).
This reading is beautiful; it is found at the beginning of Paul’s letter to the Colossians, and was likely penned while Paul was in prison. It is said to be written to young believers unknown to Paul personally who were being tantalized by false teachers. They needed clarity and Paul gave it.
The letter focuses on Jesus – who is God – as the singular Creator of all life from the beginning of time. In my study bible, these 6 verses – which comprise today’s reading – are referred to as “an ancient hymn that extols Christ’s deity and supremacy over Creation.
Paul wants to drive the point home that no one is above Christ, not even the angels. “He has neither rival nor peer, and his redeeming work transforms the old creation into a new creation through his body, the Universal Church” (Ignatian study bible, page 366). Here is the reading in full:
Christ Jesus is the image of the invisible God,
the firstborn of all creation.
For in him were created all things in heaven and on earth,
the visible and the 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.
He is the head of the body, the church.
He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead,
that in all things he himself might be preeminent.
For in him all the fullness was pleased to dwell,
and through him to reconcile all things for him,
making peace by the blood of his cross
through him, whether those on earth or those in heaven.
Gospel: Luke 10:25-37
Interestingly, just a few verses prior to today’s gospel, Jesus tells the disciples privately: “Blessed are the eyes which see what you see! For I tell you that many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.” In the Ignatius study bible notes for this verse, the explanation ties directly into today’s second reading, which we just cracked open above. For Luke 10:22 it reads: “Jesus is the divine SON of God and so, the heir of his Father’s authority and estate. The Father, Son, and Spirit are equal in being, and no one of them possesses more of the divine life and knowledge than another.” This, in essence, is what Paul said to the Colossians: “Even though Jesus is human, He’s still God and Creator of all.”
Today we have the Good Samaritan. To start of the gospel, Jesus talks about the Old Law (from Deuteronomy – Reading 1). Jesus was asked by a “lawyer” (someone knowledgeable about Mosaic law):
“Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus says –
“What is written in the law?
How do you read it?”
He said in reply,
“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.”
He replied to him, “You have answered correctly;
do this and you will live.”
The man says, well, how is “neighbor” defined exactly? And then Jesus delves into the story about the Good Samaritan and his merciful love for “the least of these.”
We’ve all heard this reading before – probably dozens of times. It’s easy to say, well, “I do love my neighbor. I donate to the Church and they help the homeless and the hungry. I buy pancake breakfasts and I let the old man cross the street even when I’m in a hurry. I’m doin’ pretty good, I think.”
The irony is, as soon as we think “we’re doin’ pretty good”, it’s a call to re-evaluate. Maybe we aren’t seeing what God sees, we aren’t looking closely enough. We will never have helped enough people, prayed enough, nor donated enough time or money – to stop re-evaluating. To think we don’t need to work on this aspect of our lives. That doesn’t mean we should think, “oh well, what’s the use then?” It means that – as the saints have demonstrated – loving our neighbors is our path to sainthood.
If we help “our neighbors” with steadfast devotion for 5 years straight without fail, without frustration, and without regret or pride, we’re not done. God’s call to love our neighbor is a lifetime commitment. It’s a state of mind, not simply an action. It’s something we’re never “done” learning or doing.
Although loving our neighbor as ourselves seems a tall order, an unattainable goal, a challenge when it comes to certain people in our lives, God’s call remains the same.”Do it anyway. Love them as I love you. In doing so, you love ME.” Moses tells us this is already in our mouths and hearts, we need only carry it out.
So which “neighbors” are hard for us to love? Which places in our hearts are hardened toward certain neighbors? We can’t overcome these obstacles alone, but God can help us. We just need to place that specific prayer in front of Him, “Lord, you know this neighbor is tough for me to love! Help me! Please give me the strength to love them as you would. I want to try. I want to do it your way.”
And then, slowly, we begin to see that person who is hard to love as a child of God. As a person God created in His image. As our hearts begin to soften (usually very slowly…), we grow, and we take one step closer to the best version of ourselves.
This week, let’s go out! Let’s be Christ to a difficult-to-love neighbor. Ask God to help you. And let’s watch the Holy Spirit work in our lives, and in our neighbor’s.