Reflection on the Readings at Mass for the 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year C. The Liturgical Sense of the Scriptures Podcast, by Catholic Author and Theologian David L. Gray.
The Liturgy Equips Us to be Merciful
In today’s first reading for the fifteen Sunday in Ordinary Time – C Cycle, in Deuteronomy chapter 30 verses 10 through 14, Moses speaks to the People of God concerning the law of God that Deuteronomy issues from chapter 6 through 26, with curses, blessings, and warnings in the chapters immediately preceding chapter thirty. That’s a lot of laws, but in today’s reading, Moses sums them all up with a word of encouragement, saying “If only you would heed the voice of the LORD, your God, and keep his commandments and statutes that are written in this book of the law, when you return to the LORD, your God, with all your heart and all your soul.” Then he says, all of these hundreds of laws are not something far from you, rather, they are “something very near to you, already in your mouths and in your hearts; you have only to carry it out.”
In the second reading, Saint Paul is writing to the Church at Colossae. The idea that Paul is beating back in this whole letter is Gnosticism, which was a teaching spreading around Rome and was positing that Christ Jesus was just a superior man, an eon – a being that was an intermediate between God the Spirit and matter. Regarding that false teaching that is still around to this day, the Apostle writes, that Christ Jesus is the fulfillment of all created things, saying “Christ Jesus is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For in him were created all things in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers; all things were created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things he himself might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile all things for him, making peace by the blood of his cross through him, whether those on earth or those in heaven.”
In the Gospel of Luke a scholar in the Mosaic law approaches Jesus and asks him, “Teacher [he calls Jesus] what must I do to inherit eternal life.” Of course this man knows the answer to that question – he’s a scholar, and most likely dressed as such, so knowing who this man is, Jesus turns it back to him, saying, “What is written the law?” To which caused the man to cite Deuteronomy 6:5 and 30:2, saying “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.” Jesus then replied to him, saying, “You have answered correctly; do this and you will live.” But the scholar seems to want to test Jesus further on this issue. The text of Luke says that he wanted to “justify himself”. So, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” And now things get interesting, because this specialist on the Torah knows the answer to this question as well, and Jesus knows that he knows the answer to the question. Neighbors for the Jewish people are just other Jewish people; that is, those who God has bond in His covenant. It may be the case that the scholar here is troubled by rumors that Jesus is teaching, healing, and ministering to non-Jews and giving them false expectations. That’s a problem. So how does Jesus respond? He informed the scholar of the law; that if you truly live the law of God, then your neighbor is not just the people who you love, but also the people who you hate; your neighbor isn’t just your friend, but is also your sworn enemy; yes, a dirty filthy Samaritan is your neighbor. People who would cause you to miss a religious ceremony because you are unclean according to the law is your neighbor. People who belong to a country that you go through extreme measures to avoid is your neighbor. According to Jesus, showing mercy through direct intervention; that is, hands on care, is the duty one has for their neighbor.
Together, these readings point to something divinely awesome about the sacrifice of the Mass, that through the worthy reception of the Holy Eucharist and though our final dismissal blessing, we are, thereby, equipped and charged to give our neighbors in this world the mercy of Christ Jesus.
A post-communion prayer found in the Dominican’s Missa Cantata liturgy, says it this way: Strengthened by the Blessed Sacrament, we humbly beseech You, O Lord, that, helped by the example and merits of the blessed Bishop Cyril, we may be worthy servants of the most holy Mother of Your only begotten Son.
The historical problem with us humans – from Adam and Eve, until today, is that we think that our life is all about us. Our eyes cannot even see all of our body, but all of our energies are directed toward self. All of the limbs of our body extend outward, but we only want to use them to care about self. And the message that we receive from the world is that selfishness is rewarded and mercy is weakness.
Yet, by causing us to use all of our body to worship, pray, and confess, the liturgy is trying to elevate us beyond and away from the self-centeredness of the world and to orient us to continually know, love, and serve God, and to be a Eucharistic People in the world. To give away to the world that same mercy that Christ has given us. To give away to the world that same Christ who we have just consumed in our bodies. What People are better equipped to live the law of love than Catholics who eat Him who IS love? Who better than Catholics to be merciful; for, they have just consumed into their bodies the Author of mercy? Let us be better than we have been, because the Mass makes us better than we have been. Truly, what Moses said to the Jews, better applies to us Catholics today. Truly, for us, the law of the Lord is something very near to us, the Real Presence of Christ Jesus – the Holy Eucharist. Yes, the fulfillment of the law is truly already in our mouths and in our hearts; we have only to carry it out.
This is just one way how the readings at Mass this Sunday connect to the liturgy and how the liturgy is forming us how to live our lives in the world. Be in the world what you have received through the liturgy.