The Transformative Power of God’s Love
User’s Guide to Sunday, July 10
One could easily reduce today’s Gospel to trite moral advice such as this: Help people in trouble; be kind to strangers.
But this is a Gospel about the transformative power of God’s love and our need to receive it. Let’s look at the Gospel in three stages.
As the Gospel opens, there is a discussion between Jesus and a scholar of the law as to a basic summation of the law. The text says, “There was a scholar of the law who stood up to test him and said, ‘Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ Jesus said to him, ‘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.’” The scholar quotes the Shema, a summary of the law known to every Jew. Notice how often the word “all” occurs. There is a radical nature to the call of love that cannot be avoided. When it comes to love, the requirement is not to give what is reasonable, to give a little, or perhaps to give a tithe. No, the call is to give God all our heart, mind, being, and strength, and to love our neighbor as though he were our very self.
Reductionism That Resists
After giving the beautiful answer about love, the scholar of the law (and there is a lawyer in all of us) reverts to form and speaks out of his flesh. The text continues, “But because he wished to justify himself, he said to Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’” In other words, he wants to say, “If I have to love my neighbor, let’s make this ‘neighbor’ category as small and manageable as possible.” This is reductionism. It is the lawyer in us at work, seeking to avoid the extravagance of love by hiding behind legal minimalism. It emerges from a kind of fear generated by the notion that we must be able to do everything on our own, by the power of our own flesh. But that’s not possible. You can’t pull it off on your own. But God can, and that is why he commands it of us.
Response That Reflects
The Lord then paints a picture of what his love and grace can accomplish in someone by telling the Parable of the Good Samaritan: There is a very important phrase that must not be missed, for it gives the key to the Samaritan man’s actions: “… [he] was moved with compassion …” Note, the sentence uses the passive voice (“was moved”). That is to say, it was not so much that the Samaritan acted, but that he was acted upon.
This indicates the power of the gift of grace. The keeping of the commandments is a work of God within us to which we yield. Keeping the commandments and fulfilling the law are the results of love, not the causes of it.
Let love lift you. Let it empower you, equip you, and enable you! Go to the Lord and pray for a deeper experience of his love. Open the door of your heart, and let the love of God in. Go to the foot of the cross and remember what the Lord has done for you. Let what he has done be so present in your mind and heart that you are grateful and different.
Let God’s love come alive in you.
- msgr. charles pope
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