A. The Bible as Guide in Life and Liturgy (Sunday Readings)

B. Reflection & Dialogue: Awareness of our Christian inheritance and pride in it.

A. The Bible as Guide in Life and Liturgy (Sunday Readings)

First Reading (Deuteronomy 30:10-14). The word is very near to you for your observance. This is the final section of Moses’ discourse on God’s Law to Israel. The remaining section of the book will be on the concluding events of Moses’ life. Early in his discourse Moses had reminded his people of their dignity in that God had revealed himself to them making them unique among the nations of the earth. His words are worth recalling (Deuteronomy 4:5-8):

“See, just as the Lord my God has charged me, I now teach you statutes and ordinances for you to observe in the land that you are about to enter and occupy. You must observe them diligently, for this will show your wisdom and discernment to the peoples, who, when they hear all these statutes, will say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and discerning people!’ For what other great nation has a god so near to it as the Lord our God is whenever we call to him? And what other great nation has statutes and ordinances as just as this entire law that I am setting before you today?”  At the end of his discourse Moses returns to the theme. He presumes that the people have been unfaithful to the Law, and invites them to return to it fully. His central point is that the Law can be lived and is known to them. It is not something far away, in the heavens above or the depths beneath. The Law, the Word, the Word of God, is very near to them, in their mouth and their heart, to be put into practice. To know the Law, God’s will, is one thing; the power to put it into practice quite another. The Book of Deuteronomy recognizes that Israel failed to observe the Law and was punished by destruction of the state, and exile. But the book also looks forward to repentance on Israel’s part and return to God’s law. The root of the failure was seen in the weakness of the human heart. The exilic and post-exilic reflection in the books of Jeremiah (Jeremiah 31:31-34) and Ezekiel (Ezekiel 36:25-27) sees the remedy to this in a new heart and a new spirit, the law written in the heart. In our text Moses says that the law is very near, in the mouth and in the heart “for your observance”. It was in their mouth since the law was to be recited. In saying that it was in their heart, the text may be thinking of a prophecy such as we find in Jeremiah. In Romans 10:5-8 Paul cites the text of Deuteronomy about the word being near, in the heart and lips and applies the text to the good news he preaches, but omits the words “for your observance”. Observance came not automatically but through divine empowering grace.

Responsorial Psalm (Psalm 68[69]). Seek the Lord, you who are poor, and your hearts will revive.

Second Reading (Colossians 1:15-20). All things were created through Christ and in him. This is a magnificent hymn on the supremacy of Christ, on the mystery of the supremacy of Christ. Paul leads into it (Colossians 2:9-14) with a prayer in which he asks God that the Colossians may be filled with a knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. God has transferred believers from darkness into the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. The hymn on the supremacy of Christ in the universe and the church then follows, a hymn which re-uses images of Wisdom personified in the Old Testament (in particular Proverbs 8). Christ as the image perfectly reveals the invisible God. As first-born he has priority to and supremacy over all creation. Every created thing had it origin in him, and was created for him, including various ranks of angels (Thrones etc.). As stated elsewhere in the New Testament (Hebrews 1:3), Christ holds all things together, a concept of Greek philosophy found also in the Old Testament (Wisdom 1:7; Ecclesiasticus 43:26). As stated elsewhere (Ephesians 1:22-23; 4:15) Christ is the head of the Church, his body. Christ is the Beginning, and by his resurrection the first-born from the dead, ushering in a new age, and confirming belief and hope in the resurrection of our bodies. Next comes .a verse to be rendered literally as: “And it pleased God to make all the entire fullness (in the original Greek text: pleroma) dwell”.  (Some texts render: “Because God wanted all perfection to be found in him”.) The text is to be understood through Colossians 2:9: “For in him (that is Christ) the whole fullness of God dwells bodily”, that is, all that God wants to communicate of himself in Christ so as to introduce us to Christ and make us perfect in him. Some see this idea close to that of the work of the Holy Spirit. This all-powerful presence of God in Christ is intended to make through him a universal reconciliation, including both heaven and earth. This reconciliation was effected by the blood of the cross, by Christ’s death on the cross.

The Gospel (Luke 10:25-37). Who is my neighbour? Today’s beautiful reading is one that calls for our reflection, just as it did in Jesus’ own day and down through the centuries. It centres around the basic and abiding question: “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”, and the point made by Jesus in reply is that the demands made by oft-repeated professions of faith may go much further than one first imagines. The question is put to Jesus by a lawyer. He would have been learned in civil and in the Jewish Mosaic law, and in Jesus’ day the lawyers would in general favour the Pharisaic position of fidelity to the strict observance of details of the Pharisaic tradition. The lawyer is said to have put his question to disconcert Jesus, possibly to ascertain where Jesus stood with regard to the central question of inheriting eternal life. It is a question which may well have been discussed by the Jewish lawyers. Jesus has the lawyer answer his own question from the Law of Moses, the Jewish fundamental guide. The lawyer gives the two great and fundamental commandments found in this Law (the Pentateuch) on the love of God and the love of the neighbour as oneself. Jesus agrees with his answer, adding that life, the eternal life of the lawyer’s question, depended on the observance of these. All Jews would have agreed on this.But the big question is that next put by the lawyer: “Who is my neighbour?” For Jews it would be Jews, excluding Samaritans and gentiles. The Samaritans were “half-Jews”, rejected by, and in turn rejecting, other Jews. Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan is a gem, easily understood and full of meaning. The fifteen miles (25 kilometres) of desert country between Jerusalem and Jericho was bandit territory. The Jewish priest and lay Levite clerical helper see the wounded man and pass by, without helping their fellow wounded Jew. The one chosen to help is of the despised, rejected, Samaritans, who uses medicine of the period: oil to ease the pain and wine to disinfect. The parable ends in a question by Jesus as to who was the wounded man’s neighbour, and the lawyer gives the obvious and only answer: the neighbour is every human being irrespective of race or religion. What gave rise to the parable was the abstract religious law: love your neighbour. Jesus, however, makes it clear that religious principles can make striking demands; “Go and do the same”.

B. Reflection & Dialogue: Awareness of our Christian inheritance and pride in it

Today’s readings invite us to reflect on our Christian inheritance and to take pride in it. Moses called on his people to do likewise, and to thank God for the great gift of divine revelation granted them.  They were also reminded of the great gift that faith bestowed on them, making them aware of the divine presence, of a personal God near them, not some remote impersonal power or being. They we also reminded that living their religion s they were called to do would make them messengers of the one true and only God. The second reading calls on us to reflect on the supremacy of Christ, sent by God to reconcile all things on earth through him. Christ is head of the Church, his body. In Christ all the fullness of God’s saving power dwells, and though Christ in the Church.

                Let us now turn to the general situation in our own day, in much or the Western world and in our own country at any rate. There is a strong movement towards secularism and a growing humanistic and atheistic view of things. God and revelation from God are seen as impediments to individual freedom and human development. There is a growing tendency to see to it that the Church or religion has no say in public life. This holds good in particular for political leaders. But the general believing public are not unaffected. There is lack of enthusiasm for matters relating to belief in Christ or the Church, and a decrease in religious practice. Today’s reading could act as a wake up call, inspiring us to pray for knowledge of the mystery of the supremacy of Christ, bearing fruit in good work.

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