15th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Sunday, July 14, 2019

First reading: Dt. 30:10-14

Moses said to the people: “If only you would heed the voice of the LORD, your God, and keep his commandments and statutes that are written in this book of the law, when you return to the LORD, your God, with all your heart and all your soul.

“For this command that I enjoin on you today is not too mysterious and remote for you. It is not up in the sky, that you should say, ‘Who will go up in the sky to get it for us and tell us of it, that we may carry it out?’ Nor is it across the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will cross the sea to get it for us and tell us of it, that we may carry it out?’ No, it is something very near to you, already in your mouths and in your hearts; you have only to carry it out.”

Second reading: Col. 1:15-20

Christ Jesus is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For in him were created all things in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers; all things were created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things he himself might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile all things for him, making peace by the blood of his cross through him, whether those on earth or those in heaven.

Gospel: Lk. 10:25-37

There was a scholar of the law who stood up to test Jesus and said, “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus said to him, “What is written in the law? How do you read it?” He said in reply, “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.” He replied to him, “You have answered correctly; do this and you will live.”

But because he wished to justify himself, he said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus replied, “A man fell victim to robbers as he went down from Jerusalem to Jericho. They stripped and beat him and went off leaving him half-dead. A priest happened to be going down that road, but when he saw him, he passed by on the opposite side. Likewise a Levite came to the place, and when he saw him, he passed by on the opposite side. But a Samaritan traveler who came upon him was moved with compassion at the sight. He approached the victim, poured oil and wine over his wounds and bandaged them. Then he lifted him up on his own animal, took him to an inn, and cared for him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper with the instruction, ‘Take care of him. If you spend more than what I have given you, I shall repay you on my way back.’ Which of these three, in your opinion, was neighbor to the robbers’ victim?” He answered, “The one who treated him with mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”

In other words Fr. Dionisio M. Miranda, SVD (University of San Carlos, Cebu City)

Think “victim” and several types spring to mind. (a) The immediate association is of an individual as object of random violence from criminal elements, like the one in today’s parable. (b) Another is the set of victims who suffer the curse of natural disasters. Recall the misfortune and pain of people caused by earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, tsunamis, and lightning strikes. (c) Miserable as well are those trapped in someone else’s war—whether this conflict be among tribes, nations, political groups, or, in recent experience, the government’s violent war against drugs. (d) Finally, there is wretchedness due to traditions and institutions which wreak havoc on vulnerable populations because of resident evil in the design and operation of their systems—and which theology aptly calls “structures of sin.”

If all these are true victims and Christians are to be neighbors to them according to the instruction of Jesus, how do we show each of them the mercy and compassion of God? The following might be helpful starters to both reflection and action, not only for educators but for other professions as well.

Len-Len was not the type of person I would have prioritized for a scholarship—she was not among the poorest of the poor; she had siblings who had jobs, granted that these were not high-salaried ones. But I helped her when her only benefactor had run out of means to help her huddle the “last mile.” I helped, quite simply, because she asked; she was the neighbor in front of me.

When typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) struck, the academic community of the University of San Carlos (USC) responded, on its own and together with civil society, organizing groups for the greatest impact, intentionally targeting areas we surmised the state would not prioritize. So effective and efficient was USC’s response that a critic of “elite schools” acknowledged that they can be powerful instruments for good. Institutions in general have resources and processes to respond to need massively and forcefully; their “neighborliness” is not limited to personal relationships; help is targeted in terms of the objective need of anonymous victims.

The Marawi City siege forcefully reminds us that armed conflict has long been responsible for internal displacement of entire families and communities, making it impossible for children to study in peace and learn how to live with others in peace. Accordingly, Catholic schools in search of brand features which distinguish their service may want to adopt education for peace, reconciliation, and healing as their unique contribution to creating zones of peace and neighborhoods of tolerance, acceptance, and solidarity.

As the educational reforms take hold, we need to raise issues of educational injustice. Many social, economic, political, cultural, and even religious ills are traceable to the lack of access to, and the poor delivery of, quality education. Younger people cannot find jobs or keep them. Absent professionals and specialists the economy cannot expand, industry cannot innovate, culture cannot evolve, politics cannot mature, religion cannot inspire, and so on. Without armies of scientists, engineers, researchers, philosophers, and artists, we will stagnate longer as a third world country without pride in itself or hope for its future. In face of such plentiful victims Christians should find countless opportunities to act as “educational Samaritans” towards education-challenged neighbors. Education, Pope Francis reminds us, is a spiritual work of mercy more far-reaching than others, for it opens the minds to possibilities to hope. That is perhaps why after Savior and Healer one of Jesus’ most characteristic titles is that of Teacher.

Tags: Bible reflection, Witness to the Word