Luke 10:25-37 Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. "Teacher," he said, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?" He said to him, "What is written in the law? What do you read there?" He answered, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself." And he said to him, "You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.”
But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?" Jesus replied, "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, `Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.' Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?" He said, "The one who showed him mercy." Jesus said to him, "Go and do likewise.”
Reflection Every morning I wake up and the first thing I do is pray saying, “O God, I love you. I love all of your creation.” I pray for my church and pray the daily office. I am disciplined in my prayer life. But if when I stop saying my prayers and head into the world I do not stop at the side of the road to give water to my dehydrated neighbor I am not loving God. Every Sunday I go to church. I am devoted to reading and studying the scriptures, saying the prayers, receiving the bread and wine made holy. But if I do not go out of my way to help the lost, the lonely and the least among us, I am not loving God.
Here’s the thing. If I cannot or will not or do not love the people I see right in front of me, how can I possibly love God whom I cannot see at all? Some of you may recall that the great convert Paul established a church for the Gentiles, meaning the non-Jews, in Corinth and stayed in touch with the new Christians through friends and letters. Apparently Paul was concerned that some of the Corinthian Christians imagined they were better than others; more spiritual, more righteous, more knowledgable. Throughout his letter to these early Christians Paul reminds them that no matter how much they think they know or how good they think they are, if they do not have love, they have nothing at all. In Paul’s words, “If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.” (ICor 13.1-3)
All around us we find opportunities to participate in God’s eternal love; in the hunger of our neighbors, in the loneliness of our friends and parishioners who are unable to join us for worship and play, in dogs and cats who need friends and veterinary care, in strangers or foreigners who need welcome, a bottle of water, a place to live, in the oppressed and the poor who need access to resources, prisoners and addicts and all folks who need hope and another chance.
The question before us is not, “How are we to inherit eternal life?” The question before us is, “How are we going to love our neighbors and in so doing love our God?”
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