Turn To God’s Love!

Peace to you!

This weekend we are called to reflect on love. We are reminded through the book of Deuteronomy that the source of all love is God and that when we love God before, beyond and above all things our lives are ordered according to God’s love. For this reason, Moses exhorts the people to turn to God with all their heart and soul and listen to God’s commandments because they are based in love and lead to love.

In the Gospel story, a scholar of the law asks Jesus about the greatest commandment of the law. Jesus teaches that we must love God above all things and he includes loving our neighbor as ourselves. When the scholar asks who his neighbor is, he implies that he can excuse himself from an obligation to love some people. Jesus’ response is a stinging surprise to the scholar and those who are like minded!

Why? After the sons of Solomon divided the nations of Israel, two kingdoms resulted: Israel in the North and Judah in the South with the capitol of Jerusalem. The Northern kingdom was invaded by the Assyrian Empire and the Israelites were reduced to slavery. Over time, they began to intermarry and blend with the Assyrians. The Jewish people regarded this blending of blood as a permanent loss of purity of race. In addition to the great calamity of being forever unclean, the Israelites were part of the Assyrian forces who invaded portions of Judah—killing members of their own race (family). So, in the eyes of the Pharisees, Samaritans were unclean by reason of impure blood and the sin of fratricide and any Jew who spoke with or touched a Samaritan would carry the same label. They deserved to be hated!

Jesus came to save all people and he extended himself toward the last, the lowest, the least, the leper, the sinner, the tax collector and the prostitute—no one is excluded. He was not hindered by prejudices of any kind and he ministered to the people of a Samaritan town. Jesus uses a Samaritan enemy in the parable story as a hero to puncture any pride in us that we might use to withhold love from someone we don’t like. Jesus, as God, loves all people and all creation. He calls us to join him and fulfill God’s law of love.

We know that we need to serve and protect the poor, the hungry, the homeless, the addict, the refugee and those who are suffering. These people and issues are around us in our places of work, school, and parishes but they are also in our own homes. It seems like it is much easier for us to care for them when they are strangers than when they are members of our own families. When we find ourselves drawing back or turning away from serving those close to us, we need to turn to God in love and ask for the love of Christ to dwell within us. God’s love gives us strength and courage to confront the things that need conversion in ourselves and others. God’s law of love brings healing and peace. Today we are reminded that “It is something very near to you, already in your mouths and in your hearts; you have only to carry it out.” May God bless you with the strength of his faithful love! +++ Fr. Peter

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