15 July 2007

LOVE AND LIVE

15 Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lk 10:25-37


Our gospel today starts with a very important question: What must I do to inherit eternal life? This question is our question, too, even as St. Luke puts it on the lips of a scribe in the gospel today.

Jesus answers our question: “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” The scribe – an expert of the Law – replies, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” In doing so, the expert of the Law quotes Dt 6:5 and Lev 19:18. Jesus approves his answer: “You have answered correctly; do this and you will live.” Here we have some of the most important teachings of Jesus.

The first thing that should catch our attention, from the dialogue between Jesus and the scribe, is the intimate link between love and life. Notice the way Jesus formulates His sentence: “Do this (love!)…and you will live.” The structure of His sentence follows the principle of cause and effect. If you love, you will live. The cause is love while the effect is life. Love is a condition for living. If you want to live, love. If you do not love, you will die.

This intimate and vital relationship between life and love is easy to understand even through simple logic. We live because God loves us. On the one hand, Gn 1:27 says that God created us in His image; in the divine image, He created us; male and female He created us. On the other hand, 1 Jn 4:8 says, “…God is love.” If God is love and we are created in the image of God, therefore, we are created in the image of love. If so, whoever does not love goes against his very nature. He who refuses to love – not only does not love – is killing himself. Whoever does not love and refuses to love commits suicide. He is already dead long before he hangs or shoots himself. This is the law of human nature. The failure to love results to self-destruction and the desire to destroy others.

This law of human nature is programmed in each of us. When, in full freedom, we surrender our selves to the love that this law prescribes, we achieve the fullness of our humanity and of our being children of God. Fullness of life is fullness of love, and the perfection of love is genuine holiness.

Nonetheless, we are always free to go against this law of nature. We may choose not to love. We may choose to do evil and avoid good instead of doing good and avoiding evil. We may opt to die, worse, kill our selves. The freewill behind every decision we make is part of the mysterious respect God has for us whom He loves so much. Because of this, Moses advises the Israelites of his time and us as well today, “Choose life…” (Dt 30:19). And Jesus explains to us today that choosing life means choosing to love.

However, the decision to love demands that we love not only those who are pleasing to love or who loves us. Jesus says in Lk 6:27-28, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who maltreat you.” In a word, we must love our neighbor – friend or foe.

Because we must love everybody, the scribe’s follow-up question to Jesus is essential: “And who is my neighbor?” But the question is wrong. The scribe’s question “who is my neighbor”, presupposes that there are people who are his neighbors and there are those who are not, that is why he needs to classify each person he meets in life according to his categories: “neighbor” on the one hand, “not neighbor” on the other hand. Anyone of us can immediately see that this kind of thinking does not resonate with the thought of Jesus who “is the true Light that enlightens every man” (Jn 1:9). Just as light indiscriminately shines upon all it reaches, so does the loving heart on anyone without asking if the other is its neighbor or not. In the sphere of love, the question of the scribe as regards who is his neighbor is absurd.

In the Parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus reverses the question and throws it back to the scribe whom we expect to be rather more intelligent than what he seems to be. At the conclusion of the Parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus asks the scribe, “Which of these three, in your opinion, was neighbor to the robber’s victim?” Thus, Jesus wants us to learn the lesson that instead of asking who our neighbor is and who is not, we should ask our selves if we are neighbors to them. To be a neighbor is a process that starts with showing compassion to others – whoever they are – even if our own convenience or security, and even life, is at stake. We become a neighbor to others. The others do not become neighbors to us because they are always our neighbors. But are we a neighbor to them? Genuine love, which is the vital perquisite to gaining eternal life, does not know how to classify anyone as neighbor or not. In sincere loving, all are neighbors. Authentic love, as an indispensable condition to receiving fullness of life, is not about who our neighbor is, but about whom do we become a neighbor to.

The question “Who is my neighbor” is a wrong question. The correct one is this: “Who am I a neighbor to?” What is your answer? What is your choice: life or death? If death, then that is very easy. But if life, we must love everyone – yes, including our enemies.

1 Comments:

At 2:37 AM , Anonymous Bubut said...

Father God, bless us that we may be able to love others as well as our enemies. Give us the strength and understanding that we will see you in difficult times of our life.

God bless po.

 

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