Thursday, July 18, 2019

My Neighbor, My Eternal life

(Deut 30:10-14, Col 1:15-20, Lk 10:25-37)

1.0. “The Word is very near you”
Moses encouraged the people to keep the commandments of God. “And turn to the Lord God with all your heart and with all your soul.” He reminded them that these commandments are within their reach. What God commanded is within human will and intellect to observe. The divine laws are neither inhuman nor antihuman. Instead they bring order to humanity, and enhance our lives while drawing us close to God.

2.0. The Pre-eminent
“Christ is the image of the invisible God.” If God who gave the law to Moses now dwells among us in Jesus Christ, then the nearness of the divine law has its locus in Christ Jesus. Thus, Jesus becomes the fulfilment of the law, and the One through whom we draw near to God and offer Him our whole heart and soul. The commandments of the Lord are no more external words written on tablets of stone, but the condition of a heart that has accepted Christ Jesus. “He is the beginning, the First-born from the dead, that in everything He might be pre-eminent.”

3.0. “What shall I do to inherit eternal Life?”
This is the question that formed Jesus’ teaching in the Gospel reading today. Only Jesus who came near us from His Heavenly Kingdom can lead us to Heaven. As He directed the lawyer back to the law, in the same way the love of Jesus impales us to observe the commandments, i.e. we approach God’s commandments with the love of Jesus.

To love God with all one’s heart, soul, strength, and mind is nothing else than to love God with the whole of one’s self. God demands our total all time response without any reservations. If all of oneself is given to God, what is left for the neighbor? The law commands that we love God totally with every aspect of ourselves, and practice that in our neighbor. This is what must be done to inherit eternal life. Thus the means of eternal life is as close as our neighbor.

4.0.  “Love your neighbor as yourself”
Our ungraced nature is brutally selfish and predatory. A heart that is not touched by divine love can hardly love genuinely and sacrificially. Thus God demands all our heart, soul, mind and strength that He might create within us the capacity to accommodate our neighbor. Only God can create! When the whole self is dedicated to God, the individual is blessed with the internal capacity to equally dedicate himself to others. This is how we can love without segregation; neighbors without fences, and still remain safe.

People often experience heartbreak in relationships because they give their hearts to people without first giving it to God. The neighbor ought to receive our emotions, strength and care as sanctified by grace. In this way no one can break your heart!

5.0. The Samaritan Comes to Town
The story of the Good Samaritan reminds us that we do not know who is our neighbor until we are in need of help. At such difficult moment, the priest and Levite whom the Jew considered neighbors disappointed him. A good neighbor; a good friend, partner, etc comes as a gift. The meeting of the wounded Jew and the good Samaritan was an act of divine Providence. That is why in giving God all our heart, soul, mind and strength we will never lack good friends…

The Samaritan shows us how we are to regard our neighbor in order to earn eternal life. He took care of the injured man as if that was the destination of his journey. He gave him his time and attention, poured oil and wine. Having revived the man a bit, he exchanged positions with him by setting him on his horse and took him to an inn. Now this Samaritan sacrificed his own journey and diverted to the inn as if that was his destination. The money he paid in the inn was the least cost of all he spent on the man. The time, attention and gift of his presence he showered on the Jew was priceless.

The love and care of a good neighbor is endless. The caring man deposited two denarii to the innkeeper on trust to cover any extra expenses he might incur. We see here that a good neighbor not only offers his help but equally attracts further graciousness from others. Thus the Samaritan involved the innkeeper in caring for the beaten Jew.

After disrupting his journey for a whole day, he now set out on his trip, but promised to come back to pay any extra charges. That means while he was away on his journey, he would continue to 'contemplate' on the welfare of the beaten man. Thus, out of sight is never out of mind for the one who loves genuinely. Being a good neighbor is not reduced to physical proximity. Through prayer and contemplation we can become good neighbors to people, even in far away places.

6.0.   “Go and do likewise”
The authentic model of a Good Samaritan shines out in Christ Jesus. He branched off His Heavenly Kingdom to attain to us who were wounded by sin. He poured out His Blood and exchanged positions with us on the Cross. Jesus paid our debt of sin, left a deposit of grace in the sacraments entrusted to the Church, which is symbolized by the inn. And promised to come back...

Thus Jesus answered the Lawyer, “Go and do likewise.” What we must do to earn eternal life is to love our neighbor as the good Samaritan did to the beaten Jew. The work of salvation is as near as the other person nearby who is in need. As Moses said earlier, the commandments of God are within reach. Now my neighbor has become my means of salvation.

Fr Jude Nwachukwu, C.Ss.R
St Martin of Tours Catholic Church,
Mabushi, Abuja.
Sunday July 14, 2019.