Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
July 10, 2016
Before our own stock market responded with a significant downward slide to the outcome of the vote, I don’t recall the news giving much attention to “Brexit.” After the British elected to leave the European Union, however, it became clear that the fallout from the decision was a matter of global concern. And so we are learning more and more about what brought about this national movement with international consequences.
The battle cry of those promoting Great Britain’s separation from the EU is: “Let’s make Britain great again.” The debate centers on how to best prioritize national values. The separatists argue that Britain has to go its own way in order to protect its identity…its culture…its place in the world as an international power and voice…its independence. The key seems to be the promise of economic prosperity. However, the immigration issue also plays a prominent part in this clash of visions. Pro-Brexit advocates are calling for closed borders in view of the significant migration of people who are searching for safety, security, and a peaceful life.
All of this seems very political and very much about economics. But is it possible that it is all about spirituality?
Throughout the Old Testament, right up to this very day, the Jewish people have been debating how to make Israel great again! Our First Reading finds the people wandering in the desert in sight of the Promised Land, but still bearing the scars from the slave chains that shackled them to Egypt. Eager for safety, security, and a peaceful way of life, they debate how to prioritize what they value as a nation. With a tone of frustration, Moses seems to be saying: “It’s not rocket science, people! If you want to be a great nation, make God’s will and God’s way your first and only priority!”
A little further into this passage, Moses explains:
If you obey the commandments of the LORD, your God, which I am giving you today, loving the LORD, your God, and walking in his ways, and keeping his commandments, statutes, and ordinances, you will live and grow numerous, and the LORD, your God, will bless you in the land you are entering to possess.
He goes on to caution, however, that to give priority to anything else will lead to certain disaster.
And so, we come to today’s Gospel, one of the most familiar passages in the whole of Sacred Scripture, known even to those without a faith life. Eager for a debate, a “scholar of the law,” in other words, someone who should know better…engaged Jesus, asking questions, the answers to which are not in the least mysterious or remote. Jesus, possibly with a more patient tone than Moses, replies with the little parable about a foreigner…an immigrant…a traveler…who puts all other concerns aside in order to care for someone in great need. He gives the victim of violence first priority, putting his time, interests, money and all else second to the urgent need for mercy. That ended the debate.
For the third Sunday in a row, our Readings challenge us to consider what should have priority in our lives. As we reflect on the passages proclaimed in light of the issues of our day, it might be fruitful to raise another “battle cry”… let’s make the Catholic Church great again! Or even…let’s make our parish great again!
How do we do this? It’s not rocket science.
Let’s protect our identity as the Body of Christ…by continuing to reflect the face of Christ to the world. Let’s protect our Catholic Culture that is energized by the Holy Spirit by following The Way the Spirit leads us…The Way to the Promised Land. Let’s ensure our place in the world by speaking out with a powerful voice on behalf of those in greatest need…even if they are foreigners or immigrants…seeing them as fellow travelers. Let’s ensure our independence through our total DEPENDENCE on God’s goodness, mercy, and love. Let’s work on bringing all people and nations together…as caring and supportive neighbors, and reject those things separating us from one another, because, ultimately, such things separate us from God. And let’s always remember that through Christ, all things are reconciled…those on earth…as well as those in heaven…and for this we should rejoice and be glad!