Our Gospel today is the Good Samaritan parable. I would like to look at it from the perspective of law. The scholar of the law who asked Jesus “what must I do to inherit eternal life” and then “who is my neighbor” was viewing the law in a very narrow way, as something to keep him on the straight and narrow, to keep him from doing bad so he would get to heaven. He was being minimalistic (to whom do I have to be neighborly and whom can I ignore?). Jesus is calling him to expand, to open up, to see the law as something that calls him to grow and include all people.
An example of what I mean: the Church obliges us to attend Mass on Sunday. Someone thinking like the scholar would be going to Mass on Sundays to avoid committing a mortal sin, so as to get to heaven (or to avoid hell). Someone thinking like Jesus would go to Mass out of love of God and the community, knowing that the Word, the Eucharist, and the community will bring growth.
In other words, they would be following the law not because they were being forced to, but because it was nurturing and growth producing for them. The law would not be confining them, but rather helping them grow.
As I have gotten older, I have come to realize the wisdom of the Gospel message and the life it calls us to live. It is not restrictive or burdensome, but rather something that makes my life happier and more meaningful now. In other words, maybe I am growing from thinking like the scholar of the law to seeing things more like Jesus. One example: forgiving others and praying for someone who hurts me. When I carry anger around with me, I am not happy. In effect I am punishing myself, not the other person. When I can forgive and pray for the other person, I am happier now, not just securing a place for me in heaven.
I invite us to reflect this week on how we view the demands of the Gospel and our faith. Are they a burden that I fulfil because I have to or because I fear hell? Or do I see them as liberating me from my
human foibles and inviting me to grow to be what God wants me to be?
Our “Church sign of the week” is a cartoon: