Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
July 10, 2016 – Year C
Readings: Dt 30:10-14 / Ps 69 / Col 1:15-20 / Lk 10:25-37
by Rev. Mr. Eddie Craig, Permanent Deacon
When I was a little kid, and I would go with my Dad on Saturdays down to my grandmother’s house to work on cars, he would always give me a few coins. When we would stop at the store, I got to pick whatever piece of candy I wanted. So I loved getting coins. But I have to confess, as I’ve gotten older, I’m really not a fan of coins any more. They’re heavy, they weigh down in your pockets, and they’re noisy. You can hear them jingling when you walk around. And they get tangled with all the other stuff that I carry in my pocket.
The exception, however, is quarters. I like quarters. Maybe this is because I am a child of the video arcade era, and there is no telling how many quarters I have fed to pinball machines and video games. Or maybe it’s because, of all the different coins we have in this country, quarters are by far the most interesting.
I remember when I was a kid and I would get quarters; I would flip them over to see if they were bicentennials. I’m sure a few of you remember those. Then, when I was a young adult, they started coming out with quarters that were dedicated to the different states. My kids each had the board, and we would collect them and put them in there. I think the boards are probably under their beds now.
Yesterday, as I was preparing, I looked on my dresser, and there were some quarters lying there, as there often are. It occurred to me that there’s a lesson in the quarter that relates to the gospel today.
In the gospel the scholar correctly states that, in order to gain eternal life, you have to love God with all your heart and all your soul and all your strength and love your neighbor as yourself. As you can see, it’s a two-part process, kind of like a quarter. It has two sides.
When I think of the “love of God” part, I think that tends to be the easier part. It’s pretty straightforward. No matter what religion you are, no matter what type of worship you prefer, it all breaks down into pretty much the same categories: We need to be reverent. We need to form a relationship with God. And we need to talk to God through prayer.
On the flip side, the “tails” if you will, is the love of neighbor, and that takes on a lot more different colors. You’ll notice in the gospel that the scholar didn’t seem to have any problem with the “love God” part. His hang-up was the “love your neighbor” part. So he asked for clarification. I think for all of us, loving our neighbor is a lot harder than loving God. It requires a lot more work.
As I reflect on that, it occurs to me that most, if not all, the problems we face in this world are due to a failure of the second part of that law, the love of neighbor: racism, terrorism, poverty, oppression in all its forms, assault. These all are the result of a failure to see the people around you as neighbors.
The first step to addressing these larger problems is to address it on a personal level. In the parable that Jesus told, He talks about a Samaritan. You can tell from the story that the victim is a Jew. The Samaritans and the Jews did not like each other. The Jews were especially mean to the Samaritans. Over the years, they had done some terrible things to them.
But the Samaritan made a conscious choice. Instead of seeing a Jew lying on the side of the road, and thinking, “Well, he deserves it,” he chose to see his neighbor and to love him.
I read a modern example of this. In 1996, the Ku Klux Klan held a rally in Ann Arbor, Michigan. As you can understand, the people who live there were not happy about this, and they showed up in a large group to protest, along with the police, who showed up to keep the peace. While the atmosphere was tense, it was initially peaceful, until a man who was dressed in a way that made it clear that he supported the Klan showed up amongst the protestors. The protestors became angry, and they started shouting, “Get him out of here.” The guy turned first to walk away, but a group of the protestors started following him, shouting even louder. At this point, the man decides to run, but he’s knocked down to the ground. He’s quickly surrounded, and some of the protestors begin to kick him and hit him with the handles of their signs.
The man could very well have been killed, if it wasn’t for a young, 18-year old African American woman who thought to herself, “This is not right.” Her name was Keshia Thomas, and she threw herself on top of the man, and she shielded him with her own body, all the while screaming at the crowd to stop. She saved his life, but she never heard anything from him.
Sometime later, however, she was approached by a man out of the blue. The young man looked at her and said, “I want to thank you for what you did.” She asked him, “Why are you thanking me?” And the young man replied, “That was my Dad you saved.”
You see, hate breeds hate, and violence breeds more violence, and the only solution is to break the cycle with love.
A friend of mine who was feeling down because of the violence that we’ve had recently in our country, summed it up well on Facebook. She wrote a beautiful post, and the last line touched me. She wrote: “We all have it in us to be a person who helps make a difference.” As we’ve learned today, that’s the price of heaven: love of God and love of neighbor. It’s two sides of the same coin.