One of the fist memories I have is when I was four years old. My mother and I were leaving her soon to be ex-husband and heading home to her parents. We were on a Greyhound bus and the trip time with layovers was about 15 hours. While on the bus I remember telling mom that I was hungry. She quietly reminded me she didn’t’ have any money, she had spent it on the bus tickets and I would have to wait till we got to Grandma’s.
The bus stopped for about an hour layover in some town I don’t even remember. As we stood out there beside the bus so mom could smoke a cigarette, a young man – maybe 30 years old and black came over to her and handed her five dollars and said to use it to get us both something to eat. I remember my mother saying that she couldn’t accept it and that we would be fine. He smiled and walked away. Five dollars was a lot of money in 1973.
Moses in our first reading today is reminding the Israelites God is right there beside them. All they have to do is listen and follow. He speaks these words to his people, the Israelites, but they are true for us too, as the people of God, the living Church. That God is not in some far off place that we need to send someone to fetch him to us. He’s not so high above the sky that we cannot reach him or know his will. His will, His Law, His Love, is written in our hearts.
Jesus echoes this in the Gospel. Love the Lord your God with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself. Jesus then tells the parable of the Good Samaritan. Now remember, the Samaritans were viewed as heathens, unclean, and for the most part, less than human by the Jews because they worshipped God where they lived and not in Jerusalem (one reason).
We know this story very well, we know that the hero of this parable is the Good Samaritan that stopped to help an Israelite that had been robbed and beaten and left for dead. Even passed over by his own people. Yet a stranger, a heathen, someone viewed as unclean stopped to help him and take care of him. We know that the real neighbor in this story is the Good Samaritan.
This man stopped, took care of this wounded man, even used his own money to pay the inn keeper for his room and board and told him he would be back to settle the rest. Why? Surely it wasn’t because he wanted to be reconciled with the Jewish people. He knew the history between them.
He did it out of love. His love for God motivated him to show love and compassion for someone who could be considered an enemy. His love for God would not let him pass this wounded man by without offering some kind of assistance. His love of God mandated that he do all that he could to make sure this man recovered.
If the love of God isn’t our motivation, then we become like the two that passed the wounded man by. We become those people that only do for those that can return the favor, or pay us back in some way. If the love of God isn’t our motivation, then our faith is empty. If the love of God isn’t our motivation, then we truly need to stop and go home and not pretend that we care.
Harsh words, I know. But truthful.
Bishop Joseph has mentioned a few times that Liturgy should comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. Our Gospel message today does that very thing. It gives us comfort to know that we are so loved by God, yet it afflicts us with the message that we must do something with that love that was freely given to us.
There has been so much violence these past couple of months. And yes, I know this is nothing new. But we know that violence begets violence, hate begets hate. Our only weapon, and the only weapon that works is love. Love begets love.
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.
Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
These quotes were made by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Over the course of all these years, I’ve never forgotten that man at the bus station. We never knew his name. Never saw him again. But he showed love and compassion for two strangers. He gave out of his own heart and asked nothing in return.
That is our call today. We are called to love unconditionally, give without counting the cost, and to do it because we love God. And when I say give, I am not necessarily meaning money. We need to give of our time, our strength, our compassion. Perhaps that is just being a good listener for someone that has no one to talk to, or who needs an advocate to speak on their behalf. There are many ways of giving.
We come together around the table of the Word and Eucharist to give God thanks and praise for all the many blessings he has given to us. Especially his undeserved love and compassion. We give him praise even in our need. And because of what we freely receive here we have a duty.
It is your duty and mine to stand up in love for any that we see in need.
We preach love and peace, now it is time to take it from within the Church out into a world that so desperately needs it.
Stand up and be the voice of love and peace in a heated discussion. Point out prejudice and hate no matter where it comes from. Be the voice of the wounded, the suffering. Butt into conversations to remind people that we are all sinners and only God has the right to judge. Be love and compassion for the bullied, the hated, the outcast. Stand up and speak the words of love people need to hear today.
One final quote from Dr. King:
“I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality... I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.”