FIRST READING Deuteronomy 30:10-14
Moses said to the people: “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. “For this command that I enjoin on you today is not too mysterious and remote for you. It is not up in the sky, that you should say, ‘Who will go up in the sky to get it for us and tell us of it, that we may carry it out?’ Nor is it across the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will cross the sea to get it for us and tell us of it, that we may carry it out?’ No, it is something very near to you, already in your mouths and in your hearts; you have only to carry it out.”
SECOND READING Colossians 1:15-20
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.
GOSPEL Luke 10:25-37
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.” He replied to him, “You have answered correctly; do this and you will live.” But because he wished to justify himself, he said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus replied, “A man fell victim to robbers as he went down from Jerusalem to Jericho. They stripped and beat him and went off leaving him half-dead. A priest happened to be going down that road, but when he saw him, he passed by on the opposite side. Likewise a Levite came to the place, and when he saw him, he passed by on the opposite side. But a Samaritan traveler who came upon him was moved with compassion at the sight. He approached the victim, poured oil and wine over his wounds and bandaged them. Then he lifted him up on his own animal, took him to an inn, and cared for him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper with the instruction, ‘Take care of him. If you spend more than what I have given you, I shall repay you on my way back.’ Which of these three, in your opinion, was neighbor to the robbers’ victim?” He answered, “The one who treated him with mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”
My sisters and brothers in the Lord,
Within this monastery of monks ranging in age from 93 to 21 and from 13 different countries, you see much of the dynamics within the monastery played out on the daily faces of the monks. Older monks sometimes quietly pause and stare at the awkwardness of younger monks and think to themselves, “If only he would not do that, it would be so much better for him.” Younger monks, a bit more vocal in their frustrations, say “If only he would not do that, it would be so much better for me!” The urgency to detect that a change is required plagues all of us, no matter wherever we are in the world or in whatever stage of our life. Hopefully, we are humble enough to ask for help when undertaking an important, eternal change.
Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life? This is the theme for our readings today. All of us want to know what we must do for eternal life. The way the question is posed is as important as the answer. If I am looking only for the things that I am prescribed to do, my question, and its answer, may curtail me as to all that I could do by following the Law. If I am asking how to follow the Teacher, the Lord Jesus, then all shall be well. The former question’s intent infers a checklist. The latter question’s intent can be best answered by the foundational attitude whereby everything must be subservient to authentic love of God and neighbor according to the truth.
The first reading from the Book of Deuteronomy repeats today’s Gospel: heed the voice of the Lord and keep His commandments and statutes. Sure, there is something a bit more concrete in this advice than that of the Gospel, but it implies an ongoing listening to the voice of the Lord–and that is the same as loving God and neighbor. God’s message to us, His people, has been consistent throughout all ages: listen to His voice, love Him and others, follow Him in every moment of life.
The second reading, from the Letter of the Colossians, again contains this same type of teaching, but is now specific that God is in Jesus and it is Jesus, our Teacher, that we must follow. Paul affirmed that Christ is indeed the one God, the Creator, and, therefore, the “fullness of God.” The divinity of Christ is stated unequivocally in the Nicene Creed: “God from God, Light from Light, /true God from true God, / begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father; / through him all things were made.” Jesus is God and Jesus is encountered now in His Church. A fellow monk quipped once: The surest way to experience instant gratification is to desire and to pray for those things which you already have. We already have Jesus as Our Savior! He is God! He is our doorway to eternal life.
St John Chrysostom in his 63rd Homily on this passage from Luke’s Gospel said: “It was no small forwardness that the young man had shown; he was a man with great desires. While others were coming to Jesus to put him to trial or to ask him to cure their diseases, or those of other people, this young man comes to him to talk about eternal life.” The young man knows well the first part of the Shema which begins with one of the best-known, most fundamental expressions of Jewish belief, and the one from which this prayer gets its name: Shema Yisra’el… (Hear, Israel) Deuteronomy 6:4-9. But Jesus, in response to the young man’s prodding, elaborates on how love toward neighbor is expressed. And who is my neighbor, the young man and we ask? My neighbor is everyone who comes into my life in any way. My neighbor is every person I treat with mercy for love of the Lord Jesus, my Teacher. My neighbor is each person who needs my help or asks my help or who enters my life in any way. We can see quickly that this answer makes us leave aside any book of good deeds that I must do and instead I must serve each person according to that person’s needs. An incredible commandment! It demands everything of us, just as it demanded everything of Jesus, even unto death.
My sisters and brothers, we are invited to walk the way of the Teacher, the Lord Jesus, and serve all others and to give our lives up completely in the love of others. Let us walk in the way of the Lord. And, by His grace and mercy may we one day enjoy eternal life.