14 Sep 2014
“Jesus said to him, ‘Go and do likewise.’” (Luke 10:37) In the name …
At some point over the summer a member of the AA group that meets in our parish hall on Saturday evenings came over to the rectory. He wanted to let me know that there was a problem with the back door. It wouldn’t close all the way. So I went over with him and sure enough we could not get the door to close. I thought maybe it got caught in a gust of wind and maybe the hinges or something got bent. I was worried not because I thought someone may break in over night, but because of animals that may sneak into the hall on a warm summer’s evening. I went back to the rectory and called Joe Kostiuk. He’s nice enough to come by when stuff like this happens. Now remember, it wasn’t just me that couldn’t close the door. There was also the AA guy. So Joe drives down to the church and even before I know he’s there he’s got the problem figured out. That big steel and glass door of maybe six and a half feet would not close because of this (pebble). This little piece of stone was the entire problem. This little piece of stone prevented the door from working.
Today is the Feast of Brotherly Love and the church has asked us to read the parable of the Good Samaritan, probably one of the most famous and beloved of all of Jesus’ parables. The stage is set for the telling of this parable by an encounter between Jesus and very precocious lawyer. As I have said many times before, Mark’s Gospel serves as the template for Luke’s. In the older story in Mark, Jesus is the one who gives us the Two Commandments of Love (12:28+), but in today’s Gospel-selection it is this religious lawyer. It is this man, not Jesus, who condenses the 613 commandments of the Old Testament down to the two commandments to love God and to love neighbour. The act of revelation, however, is not in this intellectual discovery. And in Luke that’s exactly what it is. It’s an intellectual exercise. It’s like scientists today who are trying to discover the Grand Unified Theory, the one law that will condense all of the different physical laws we now have. The ancient Jewish lawyers sparred with each other by arguing which law was the greatest, which one law contained the seeds for all the others. So in Luke, the Two Commandments of Love are born of logic, not God’s revelation.
The lawyer continues playing this lawyer’s game. He asks Jesus to define neighbour. I don’t know if you remember or not, but Paul declared last Sunday that “the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.” (Rom. 13:8) The lawyer took the 613 commandments and condensed them down to two. Paul takes the them and cuts them back to one! His take on the law is that if you love one another you’ve got everything covered. I think he’s on to something there, and I think it’s the same something that leads Jesus to tell us the parable of the Good Samaritan as He explains neighbour. In Luke’s Gospel, the story could easily have gone down the path of explaining what it means to love God, but Luke’s Jesus answers the lawyer with a parable about love one another. There are the Two Commandments of Love, but Jesus takes the time to explain only the one, the exact same one that Paul said fulfilled all of the requirements of the law. It’s the commandment of brotherly love in both cases.
So Jesus finishes telling the story of the Good Samaritan and He then asks the lawyer who the neighbour to the victim is in the parable. The lawyer answers: “‘The one who treated him with mercy.’” Then Jesus slips the little pebble between the door and the frame. Then Jesus challenges the lawyer to: “‘Go and do likewise.’” That’s the moment of revelation. It’s one thing to understand in our minds that brotherly love is THE commandment of our faith. But it’s a whole other animal to go out and actually do likewise. Jesus played the intellectual game of which is the greatest commandment, but the moment of revelation was when He took the discussion out of the classroom and finished with “Go and do likewise.” Brotherly love is the essential commandment of our faith, but the pebble in the doorway is that it doesn’t mean anything until we also “Go and do likewise.”
My daughter Amanda is a college freshman, and as a freshman she is living in a room with three other girls. I only met them for a brief few moments. One seemed very studious. Another was very detail oriented. Everything was just so. Her bed had blankets draped gracefully over the side like in a fashion magazine. She had wall hangings that looked like two plants and they held battery operated tea lights on each branch. The third girl arrived late. She was a lot of fun and had a lot of energy as soon as she entered the room. She was hugging all of her roommates and even a girl down the hall who just happened to be in the room at the time. But she was also pretty laid-back. The only decoration she had put up by the time Sharon and I left was a piece of driftwood with the words Nantucket.calm carved into it. She had forgotten her bedding and even her underwear when packing for college. Then there’s my Amanda. Well, of course she’s perfect. I told Amanda I was anxious to hear stories of how this all played out over the semester. I think they may all end up being great friends. I imagine that’s what they were all hoping for on day-one. But the pebble in the doorway is what they actually do. How hard will they work at getting along, differences and all?
Take that dorm room and extend its walls so that it becomes our story. How will we “Go and do likewise”? We can know that brotherly love is the essential commandment, but the pebble in the door is how much we are willing to go and do likewise. Will we help our neighbour who is in need? Will we join our CROP Walk team, for example, and donate to it after Mass? Will we forgive when it’s hard to forgive, or as Jesus says in today’s Mass, forgive seven times in a day when someone tells us they’re sorry? The little pebble that can mess everything up is our willingness to actually go and do likewise. On this feast of Brotherly Love, let us pray that we not only learn the lesson of the Good Samaritan, but that we imitate it in the way we lead our lives. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen. (+)
Fr. Randolph Calvo