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Sunday Scripture: Giving God 100 percent

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Wednesday, July 7, 2010

By Father Timothy Schehr

Fifteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time: Deuteronomy 30:10-14; Colossians 1:15-20; Luke 10:25-37

Deuteronomy. Now that is a name to be taken seriously. Deuteronomy is the fifth book of the Bible; it is also the final book of the Torah, the Law of Moses. Its pages record Moses’ farewell address before he steps aside and surrenders leadership to Joshua.

Moses is 120 years old and has a lifetime of wisdom to share with the younger generations that stand before him. He cannot stress enough how important it is for them to remain faithful to the covenant they made with God at Mount Sinai. In that agreement with God, they promised to live up to all the expectations God has of them as God’s holy people. This is where the imposing name of this book comes in. It is Greek for “second law.” Moses goes over a second time all the details of their agreement with God.
 
What’s the bottom line? Serve God with all your heart and all your soul. Easy enough to say, but that little word “all” challenges us to give God 100 percent of ourselves; 99.5 percent is definitely commendable. But what about that little half of a percent? Moses wants the people to be perfect covenant partners with God. He is asking for a lot. But should God’s holy people really settle for anything less?

We hear Deuteronomy’s bottom line again in the Gospel for this Sunday. A legal specialist asks Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life. It is not an innocent question. The lawyer wants to expose the Lord’s presumed ignorance of God’s law. But Jesus, always in command, asks the lawyer what is written in the law, in effect telling His interrogator he already knows the answer to his own question. Thrown off balance by the Lord’s response, the lawyer gives up the answer.

But the lawyer wants to regain the advantage; he poses another question: “Who is my neighbor?” This one is not so clearly defined in the law so he assumes Jesus cannot throw the question back at him as He did before. But Jesus once again responds as the gentle teacher and leads the lawyer to discover that the real question is, “Am I a neighbor to others?”
 
The Lord’s account of the Good Samaritan is one of the most celebrated passages in the Bible. It is full of surprises. For one thing, no one in the Lord’s audience would have imagined that a Samaritan would surpass a priest or a Levite in compassion. For another, the Samaritan goes way beyond the ordinary. He not only tends to the man’s wound, he even carries him to a place of rest. Not only does he cares for the man himself, he even arranges for another to do so, promising to compensate later for any further costs incurred in the man’s care.
 
The lawyer has to agree that this Samaritan is the one who proved to be an ideal neighbor. And now the lawyer really has some thinking to do. Has he been neighbor to Jesus in trying to test Him with his questions? If the lawyer is listening, he will recognize that Jesus has just shown him the way to eternal life.

The second reading is so lyrical it is thought to be an ancient Christian hymn. Is Paul citing this hymn or did he actually compose it himself? Its theme is that Jesus is first in everything. He is the firstborn of all creation. He is head of the church. He is the first born from the dead. And Jesus is the Savior of the world. Do we need to look any further for an example of someone who gives God 100 percent?

Father Schehr is a faculty member at the Athenaeum of Ohio. 

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