Mercy Beyond Borders, Beyond Proportion
Homily on the 15th Sunday in OT, 10 July 2022
This past week from Monday up to yesterday thirty of us Salesians together with two lay observers gathered in Lawaan for our Tenth Provincial Chapter. Thanks be to God! The meeting was a huge success. Everyone representing their communities was able to speak out and give his valuable contribution both in the plenary sessions and in the break-out groups. Overall I can say that the discussions were not only orderly done but most of all they were passion-driven and Spirit-filled.
I remember that at the end of every reporting in the plenary session we would always have two rounds of clarifications and another two rounds of interventions. And so, whenever the floor would be opened for clarifications, we would often hear someone asking “May I ask for some clarification on what you said. What do you really mean by this word or that phrase? Could you please explain it?” And the group presenter would do his best to give a satisfactory explanation. Or if not he would call somebody from his group who could give a better explanation on the matter. And so at times, our discussions would be prolonged because of the need to make everyone understand well what is being proposed to the assembly before everyone could cast his vote on a proposed change or resolution. In the end, we all thanked Fr Rooney (Head of Commission on Youth Ministry) who did well in his task as chapter moderator. And we also thanked Fr Fidel, our Provincial who guided us all along and ensured we were always on the right track. We also thank you for having supported us with your prayers esp. this past week. We definitely felt the power of your fervent prayers.
Brothers and sisters, we are now on the Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time. In the Gospel, we have heard today that an expert of the law intervened while Jesus was teaching and asked an interesting question “Teacher what must I do to inherit eternal life?” And after the response was given, he followed up his question by asking the teacher to clarify one word that he mentioned – “neighbor” – what it really meant. Who is my neighbor?
On a personal note while reading this gospel passage I was suddenly struck by the first question posed by the scholar: “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” As we all know the Jews believed that by virtue of their belonging to God’s chosen people, they would automatically inherit the kingdom of God, just as long as they are faithful to God’s law and his commands. That is why in his reply Jesus threw the question back to the scholar to elicit the answer from him: “What is written in the law? How do you read it?” Jesus asked him.
Thereupon, the scholar 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.” In other words, the Jewish scholar understood very well that belonging to God’s chosen people would have no value at all if one does not earnestly strive to fulfill God’s commands. Very true! Similarly, we can also say that being baptized Christians will have no value at all if we do not earnestly strive to fulfill God’s double-sided law of love.
One can be a child of a multi-billionaire and yet could not get a single peso as an inheritance because he or she has not been an obedient, respectful, and trustworthy child to his/her father. I guess you would agree with me that no father would ever entrust or bequeath his wealth and possessions to one who does not really deserve it. Otherwise, he runs the risk of losing everything he worked for. We can say therefore that the secret of inheriting the eternal riches of our Father in heaven is to love God totally with our whole person and to love our neighbor as much as we want to be loved ourselves.
The question however still remains: Who is the neighbor Jesus was referring to in the parable? Much to the puzzlement of everyone Jesus abstained from answering the question directly. We can only surmise that had he chosen to enumerate for them who their real neighbors were, the list would be endless. And so he instead gave his reply by narrating to them the parable of the good Samaritan, who interrupted his journey to rescue a helpless victim of a roadside robbery. Despite knowing him to be an enemy disregarded by two fellow Jewish travelers who were in a better position to help him, the Samaritan extended his help to him way beyond proportions. At the end of the story, Jesus asked his listeners who among the three passersby showed himself to be neighbours to the robber’s victim. And the scholar’s answer was “The one who treated him with mercy.” And Jesus challenged him by saying “Go and do likewise.”
In the light of today’s gospel passage, I realized that there are so many “Good Samaritans” in our world today. And in fact, the Catholic Church could probably be the biggest non-government institution working for the victims of poverty, violence, and exploitation through its countless charitable works catering even to non-Christians. Just looking at our very own congregation with members numbering more than fourteen thousand five hundred (14,500) priests and brothers, and currently working in one hundred thirty-two (132) countries we, the Salesians of Don Bosco, have actually left our homes to respond to God’s call of dedicating our lives totally to serve the young especially the poor and the marginalized.
Moreover during our recently concluded FIS Provincial Chapter, we realized that with many new emerging realities there are still loads of work to be done here in this part of our country. We need to reach out to many more needy youth even among non-Christians and to improve the quality of our ministry towards them. But sad to say our numbers are still disproportionately low. The mission while it impassions us continues to overwhelm us.
May the Lord continue to send more labourers to work in his vineyard. And may many more young people respond to God’s call and challenge to be Good Samaritans today showing mercy to the needy beyond borders and beyond proportion. GiG…sss!
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