God had called Moses to lead his people from slavery in Egypt to the Promised Land. Our first reading today (15th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C) comes just before Moses dies prior to the Israelites entering the promised land. After leading the people out of Egypt, God had instructed the people on how to live. The problem? They were not following God’s commands.
Throughout the Book of Deuteronomy, Moses reminds them of what the Lord has taught and commanded. Today we read, “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.” “If only….” Moses had become frustrated with the people’s failure to follow God’s commandments.
He wants to encourage them. He tells them that God’s commands are “not too mysterious and remote.” In fact, Moses says, “No, it is something very near to you, already in your mouths and in your hearts; you have only to carry it out.” Created in the image of God, we already have God’s ways written in our hearts. In Baptism, we become children of God, called to follow him.
One might think it should be easy to follow the Lord but it is not. We face temptation. However, as our responsorial psalm verse todays says, “Turn to the Lord in your need, and you will live.“
Turning to today’s gospel, a scholar of the law comes to Jesus and asks, “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Eternal life is what we are created for, to be with God. This is what it truly means to live.
Jesus responds by asking him, “What is written in the law?” The scholar responds by referring to Deuteronomy 6:5, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, will all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” To truly live is to love God. We cannot fully love God without loving our neighbors who are as much children of God as we are.
The scholar has given the proper response. Jesus tells him, “do this and you will live.”
The scholar then asks another question, “And who is my neighbor?” In other words, who is it that I need to love. Jesus responds with the Parable of the Good Samaritan. “A man fell victim to robbers…” Who stopped to help him? It was not the priest or the Levite. Both were religious leaders and should have done what God wanted but instead, “passed by on the opposite side.”
It was a Samaritan (remember the Samaritans were despised by the Jews) who “was moved with compassion” when he saw the victim. He was not simply moved with compassion in his heart. He put his compassion into action, taking care of the man’s wounds, taking him to an inn, and providing payment for the man’s care. Everyone, including the complete stranger is our neighbor.
When we respond with love to those in need, our love for them can be a sign of God’s love. In caring for the physical needs of others, we help them to live in this world. In showing them love, we point them to what it truly means to live.
As Paul writes, “Christ Jesus is the image of the invisible God.” Before Jesus became incarnate in the flesh, God seemed distant. Jesus puts a face to God. Created in the image of God, we have God dwelling in us. Can you see God in others? Can others see God in you?