“‘Teacher, what must I do …’”(Luke 10:25)In the name …
Back in 1906 our church denomination was in disarray.As a denomination we were really only two years old at the time.Our first synod was held in 1904 and there weren’t any plans to meet again until 1909.But events within and outside of our church weren’t paying any attention to these schedules.Really, the denomination could have died before it was even born.And there were people hoping just that would happen and they were working toward this goal.This was the backdrop behind the call to meet at the Special Synod of 1906.What I find amazing, and what I feel most proud about when I think back to this synod, is the creation of today’s feast of Brotherly Love.The agenda was filled with heated topics.I’m sure emotions ran high as the delegates discussed the distortions and denouncements of our young church.Everyone there would have taken these accusations extremely personally.They had invested themselves in the creation of something new and daring.And yet they did not turn around and hurl similar insults against their accusers.Instead, they established this feast day of Brotherly Love.They established that our church would pray every year for that selfless and holy love lived by Jesus, for the brotherly love that Jesus talked about in the parable of the Good Samaritan, that this Christian love would be the ideal we would strive toward as the community of church and as individual parishioners.
The importance of this lesson for our day and age has not decreased in the least with the passage of more than a century, and that lesson cannot be missed when by happenstance the Feast of Brotherly Love falls on the same weekend as the 9th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of Sept 11th.It was religion that inspired the cowardly murder of some 3,000 innocent souls.It is religion that inspired all the commotion about the planned burning of the Koran by a small group in Florida.It is religion that will inspire the reaction of fanatics who believe that God cares more about a book than a life.It is so often religion and the religious who need to listen to our own proclamations, to live by what we preach.
There is too much pain and brokenness in the world for religion, of all things, to be adding to it.Christians aren’t making their case any stronger by resorting to the theatrics of burning Korans and Muslims aren’t proving that the Koran doesn’t inspire violence by resorting to violence.The whole situation is just plain absurd.But we should not allow the few to define what it means to be religious.And once again, this is where brotherly love becomes so important.There are all these religious zealots out there working to defend God, as if God needs to be defended in the first place.And in the process they’re willing to mistreat and abuse other people.When real religion teaches instead:“Those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen.” (1 Jn 4:20)God can take care of Himself, but religion should inspire us to take care of each other.
My daughter Amanda was looking for a bike lock.I found an old one out in the garage.It’s in perfect working order.There’s just one problem.We can’t find the key to open the lock.So what good is it after all?The key that opens up the real meaning and beauty of religion is brotherly love, how we act towards each other.There’s no real religion in burning Korans or threatening to harm people who burn Korans.Real religion shows itself when we act decently in our lives because God is a part of them.Last Sunday there were 19 teenage girls from the Frontier soccer team at a sleep-over at our house.Well, it really wasn’t at our house because they slept outside.I was nice and comfy in the house – and they weren’t.It’s easy being hospitable when you don’t have to see anybody.But if there were 19 girls in my house, then that would have been a whole other story.It’s not really hard to think of yourself as religious if you’re only concerned about the God you never see up in heaven.The proof of religion, just like John said in today’s reading, is how we treat the people we see every day.
This past Sunday I’m over at Jerry’s Restaurant having my usual Sunday breakfast.A man I know walks in, we chat for a little while, and then he leaves.After he’s gone, Jerry tells me that the man paid for our breakfasts and that he told Jerry not to say anything until after he had left.He watches our Mass every Sunday night on television.So I’m offering my “Thank You” to him right now, but it’s just those types of small, random acts of kindness done not for attention but out of caring that can steal attention away from the absurd stunts done by religious nuts, and can replace them with what it really means to be a believer, and it all comes down to brotherly love.
In today’s Gospel we read again the famous parable of the Good Samaritan.For many Christians this is their favourite parable, and that says a lot about believers and about what we hope for in our faith.It all starts with a religious expert testing Jesus and asking, “‘Teacher, what must I do …’” He’s looking for big answers:laws, rules, commandments, things that must be done.But what Jesus spends the most time on in His answer is the spontaneous response of the Good Samaritan.He sees a person in need and does something about it.The parable offers no new rules, no big theological explanations, just the straight-forward message of treat each other decently.Do something, no matter how small, for someone else because that unlocks the potential of brotherly love, and brotherly love is the only thing that’s going to redeem religion.God needs to be imitated not protected.
This is not easy and this is not natural, and this is exactly why we need to pray for brotherly love every single year. Changing the norm has to begin somewhere.Why can’t it begin with us?Why can’t it begin now?As we come together on the Feast of Brotherly Love, may this be what we pray for in Jesus’ name.Amen.(+)