Fifteenth Sunday of the Year Deuteronomy 30: 10-14; Colossians 1: 15-20; Luke 10: 25-37 ‘Moses said to the people: Obey the voice of the Lord your God, keeping those commandments and laws of his that are written in the Book of the Law, and you shall return to the Lord your God with all your heart and soul.” The obedience demanded by Moses for God’s law is easily dismissed in today’s society. There is a mind-set that refuses to surrender its independence of thought to any rule or regulation. Sinful human nature refuses to be led, dismissing the law of God as the outward imposition of some bygone age.
It is clear that the Book of Deuteronomy, while it spoke of the law of God, never envisaged that law as external restraint alone. The law articulated a longing for God, a longing for his goodness, to be found in every person. Moses described such a law as being neither beyond our strength nor beyond our reach. The Word, or the will of God, is very near. “It is on your lips and in your hearts.” These words, spoken long ago, invite us to consider our better selves. How do we want to serve God? As those offering the minimum acceptable compliance to a rule, or as those whose obedience expresses their deepest selves? Obedience to God can never be a matter of mere compliance. It must be a matter of the heart, a way of life gladly given to God. This is not to say that obedience to God’s ways will always be easy. It becomes easier when we truly believe that God has written all that is best on our hearts, and that anything less is unworthy of us. When we acknowledge this inner goodness, written on our hearts, we begin to live above our ‘normal’ selves.
The gospel takes up these reflections on the nature of God’s law. Jesus was responding to the question of a lawyer. The question had been simple enough. “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus turned the question back upon the lawyer. “What is written in the law? What do you read there?” The lawyer’s response, paraphrasing passages from the Old Testament law, went far beyond unthinking obedience to an external law: “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind, and your neighbour as yourself.” The passion of this response echoed the words of Moses. This is indeed a law that is written on our hearts, a longing for God and each other that engages all our energies.
The choice is ours. Do we long for the best that God has entrusted to us, or are we will ing to settle for less.
The familiar parable of the Good Samaritan demonstrates the down-to-earth reality of God’s law. Love of God and neighbour is not a remote ideal. It becomes flesh and blood in daily situations.
We claim to live in an unprejudiced and inclusive society, and yet few of us overcome our fear and suspicion of the unfamiliar in our midst. Political parties have begun to form around the deeply held prejudices that can affect us all. The debate can, and will go on.
The gospel of the Good Samaritan asks one simple question. Who is your neighbour? It gives no leeway to our likes and dislikes, our prejudices or our predispositions.