Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – July 14, 2013

The_Good_SamaritanCentral Idea: Love God and neighbor according to rightful law. Doctrine: The precepts of the Church. Practical Application: Living the precepts better.

Click here for Lectionary: 105

Central Idea: Love God and neighbor according to rightful law.

Reading 1 Dt 30:10-14

  • We are always turning away from the LORD, our God through forgetfulness and sin. Whenever we return with all our heart and soul, we recommit to doing what God wants, from that time forward. In practice, we return to God daily and even moment by moment.
  • What God wants of any human being is not mysterious. It is love: To love him and to love one another.
  • This is as true for Jews, as it is for Catholics, as it is for those who have never heard of either faith.
  • For those who do not know God properly, God accounts love of neighbor as love for him.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 19:8, 9, 10, 11

  • Good people are lawful. That is, they freely obey just laws.
  • The more perfect the law and the more perfect its source the more joy it gives people to obey it.
  • Orthodox Jews today recognize 613 laws from the Old Testament, which they try to scrupulously obey (some of them cannot be followed today because they pertain to temple worship, which ended in AD 70 when the Romans destroyed the Temple in Jerusalem).
  • The “Law” for Catholics could be seen as complex and simple.
    • It is the entire natural law—all of our obligations to God and neighbor in thought, word, and deed. It is the Ten Commandments, God’s own articulation of the natural law. It is also all just civil laws. It includes the precepts of the Church.
    • It is also simply to love God completely and neighbor as self.
    • It is even simpler in Christ’s New Commandment to love others with a sacrificial love.

Reading 2 Col 1:15-20

  • Scholars think St. Paul is quoting a hymn that was already in use in the Church’s liturgy.
  • It is filled with tremendous praise of Our Lord based on who he is and what he has done.
  • Who is he? The fullness of the image of God. The instrument of creation. The head of the angels and of the Church.
  • What has he done? He has created all things and then reconciled all things all to the Father. He has risen from the dead.

Gospel Lk 10:25-37

  • Luke’s Gospel records Jesus’ confirmation of a core Jewish teaching. This teaching is the twin and interrelated doctrines of complete love for God and love of neighbor as self. If you want eternal life, Jesus said to the scholar and says to us, that is what you must do.
  • Through his Church and its missionary activity over the centuries, Christ gives this core Jewish and human teaching as a gift to the whole world.
  • But Luke tells us that the scholar of the law wanted to “justify himself,” so he asked Jesus “Who is my neighbor?”
    • Who was this man required to love like he loved himself? Was it only certain people, fellow Jews? Were there people he was not required to love, like enemies or outcasts or the immoral?
    • A very strong movement within Judaism was separatism. The Pharisees thought that best way for Jews to be faithful to God was to separate themselves from Gentiles and sinful Jews: These had been tempting Jews away from the Law throughout Jewish history.
    • The Jewish authorities were perplexed that Jesus associated with sinful Jews and even Samaritans.
  • To answer the scholar’s question, Jesus composed the story we call the Parable of the Good Samaritan.
  • But instead of answering the question, “Who is the neighbor I should love?” Jesus answers a different question: “What is the man like who loves his neighbor?”
  • The answer is he is like the hated Samaritan, not the Levite or the Jewish priest.
  • To love your neighbor as yourself means to give care to anyone in need that you encounter, even if he is your enemy. The Parable of the Good Shepherd illustrates Jesus’ command to love your enemies and to do good to those who hate you (Lk 6:27).

Doctrine: The precepts of the Church

  • The pastors of the Church have the legitimate authority to make laws which apply to all Catholics, including themselves. These laws require from us something we need: “the very necessary minimum . . . [for] growth in love of God and neighbor” (CCC 2041).
  • The first precept requires we participate in the Eucharistic celebration every Sunday and holy day of obligation and rest from activities which impede sanctifying these days. (CCC 2042)
  • The second precept requires we confess our sins at least once a year in the sacrament of reconciliation to ensure we can receive the Eucharist worthily. (CCC 2042)
  • The third requires we receive the Eucharist at least once during the Easter season so that as a minimum we will receive Our Lord’s Body and Blood “in connection with the Paschal feasts.” (CCC 2042)
  • The fourth requires us to “observe the days of fasting and abstinence established by the Church.” This “ensures the times of ascesis and penance which prepare us for the liturgical feasts and help us acquire mastery over our instincts and freedom of heart.” (CCC 2043).
  •  The fifth precept is the duty of providing for the material needs of the Church, each according to his abilities. (CCC 2043)

Practical Application: Living the precepts better

  • The precepts demand a minimum. The first practical step is to make sure we reach that minimum level. Once the minimum is reached, we can and should do much more.
  • We can always participate better in the masses we attend: in how we dress, our posture, our mental attention, our participation in the prayers, and so on.
  • A huge area to improve in could be observing the Sunday rest by not engaging in unnecessary labor or activities which might end up alienating us from God.
  • We should confess our sins regularly, and as soon as possible if we are aware of a serious sin. If we are serious about our spiritual lives, we should try to go at least every month.
  • We should receive the Eucharist at every Mass as long as we are in the state of grace. This ought to extend to attending Mass on other days if we can. The Eucharist is the greatest of treasures. If we understand what the Eucharist is, we will want it always.
  • One aspect of ascesis or self-denial is the Friday penance. The Church requires some kind of penance or sacrifice every Friday. In some places the bishops establish something specific, like abstaining from meat. In other places, the actual penance is left up to the individual. If so, do we actually do something? It does not have to be dramatic. If you do something as simple as not taking sugar in your coffee, you are reminded again and again that you are just a creature under God’s authority, and you are submitting to that authority. This discipline helps one “acquire that mastery over our instincts and freedom of heart” (CCC 2043).
  •  In providing for the material needs of the Church, do we actually do it? Do we determine what we are going to give and then carry through time after time?

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