Simple and Straightforward

15th Sunday. http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/071419.cfm

Do you know people who spend more time and energy reading between the line than reading the words on the line? You might be one of them, and at times I might be too!

You know, that memo from the boss – what is she really saying?  What is she not saying? 

Or that email you get and read it one way when the author didn’t mean it to be that way at all?  

Or you dissect yesterday’s conversation today and wonder “hay was that a dig that I missed? What did he really mean?” and you replay it over and over again until you justify your invalid perception.

Life certainly can be complicated-sometimes by our own making.

The core of important messages often get nuanced so much with the… ”if this/than that’s”… and the “what ifs” and the “except for” … that the meaning gets… lost… or at least garbled in transmission. Sometimes in this complex world we need simple and straight forward even if we don’t automatically accept it as such, and our scriptures today deliver just that.

In the first reading Moses tells the people that what God wants of them is not too mysterious. They do not have to search the sky to find it…they do not have to travel to the ends of the earth to discover it, and no one special has to bring it to them.

Rather he tells them what God commands is already in their mouths and on their hearts and all they have to do is carry it out. He could easily add “Don’t complicate the message.”

The Gospel keeps with the theme of simple and straight forward. The Gospel proves the point that the essence of God’s message is well known and really does not need much explanation.  

The scholar of the law asks Jesus a question, “What must I do to inherit eternal life” and Jesus gets him to answer his own question which he does with ease. Jesus tells him simply enough. “You have answered correctly, do this and you will live.”

The lawyer asked and answered his own question- as lawyers tend to do. He didn’t need anyone else, not even Jesus, to explain to him what was needed. He already knew the answer and, as he proved, it was not so mysterious that it needed interpretation, it wasn’t far off, it was already on his lips and in his heart, just like Moses said in the first reading. All he needed to do was to put it in action. Simple and straight forward–enough said. Well not exactly…

It appears that even with having the correct answer, the scholar was reluctant and wanted to nuance the simple message by asking, “Who is my neighbor?”  and we hear the familiar parable of the Good Samaritan. The lawyer finds out from the parable that there is no loophole, no nuance to be explained, no exceptions to be added. His neighbor is every sister and brother in need without distinction, regardless of social, religious, or national affiliations.

Now we too can ask…What are we to do to inherit eternal life? and we too can answer as did the lawyer:

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.

A simple and straight forward answer… but not an easy answer.  A great thought… and an even better action.

But… like the scholar of the law we too might want to seek clarification of this simple answer hoping that there is more, or at least something else and  wonder  “can’t I do something else to follow Jesus” and you can, but not at the expense of loving your neighbor.

God’s message is simple and straightforward…. 

Love God and love neighbor… or better yet…

Love God by loving neighbor.

Who is my neighbor?  Look around

Reflection:

Are we unable or unwilling to respond to our sisters and brothers in need because we are captivated by our own life? 

Are we selfish and thoughtless? 

Are we so accustomed to the suffering of others that we are callused and contribute to the globalization of indifference, believing that it does not concern us?  

Do we look at suffering, and simply think “poor guy” and move on, not lifting a finger to help, like the Priest and Levite in the parable?

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