TRINITY 6: 11 July, 2010 in CR chapel.
Deut 30:7-14. Col 1:1-14. Luke 10:25-37
Luke 10:27: “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 neighbour as yourself."
No doubt the priest and the Levite felt guilty as they passed by the man lying half dead on the other side of the road. They knew the Law - the passages which the lawyer quoted. They recognised the man in trouble, one of their neighbours. Yet they were busy people, important people, they had appointments to keep and the man was in a dangerous place. Somebody else would be coming along soon, they didn't have time.
Somebody else did come along; he was a Samaritan. He saw the man in need and he had compassion, just as Desmond Tutu had compassion, when he saw the man about to be necklaced, as a suspected informer. He sailed in and helped him, regardless of personal danger. Perhaps it wasn't as simple as that. He recognised him as a Jew and he didn't much like Jews. If he passed by on the other side, it looked as if there would soon be one less Jew in the world. However, maybe he ought to help him. So he asked God to help him and God did. It proved to be a bit more costly than he expected but, anyway, he did his best with God's help. We too need God's help if we are to love our neighbour as ourselves. If we have compassion it is because the love of God has been shed upon us through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
The first part of the great commandment seems to mean that God wants us to love him with all our heart and soul and strength and mind for his sake. He wants us to love him and go on loving him regardless of feelings, regardless of whether he seems to answer our prayers or anything like that. We may find happiness and fulfilment in our relationship with Him, or we may not. Happiness and fulfilment are not the object. We are not to love God to obtain any benefit for ourselves. "Love seeketh not her own". In all this we have the example of our Lord who came to show us God's love and how to respond to it by loving him with all our heart and soul and strength and mind and to enable us to do it. If we need God's help to love our neighbour, how much more do we need his help if we are to love him for his sake. We can only do it in so far as we are united with him. That is what he prayed for his disciples, "that the love with which thou hast loved me may be in them and I in them" (John 17:25). The love of God is God's gift of himself and that love He continually seeks to give.
We also need the help of one another in the Church. God can only be loved for his own sake in fellowship with each other in Christ. It is not a private love affair. It can only be done together. Loving God and loving one another are not the same thing but they go together; it is a Community thing. So Paul prayed for the Ephesians: "that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fulness of God." So, on this St Benedict’s day, we give thanks for the religious life. A religious community as I understand it is just a group of friends who are trying to help each other to love God with all their heart and soul and strength and mind, to love their neighbour as themselves and together to do His will.
We are not in any kind of competition with each other; there can be no private good apart from the good of one another; we stand or fall together. Yet there is a part for each of us to play - a part which unless we play it we are all the poorer. That part is to want to respond to God’s love by loving him with all our heart and with all our soul and with all our strength and with all our mind. Our desire is the one thing we are free to give or withhold. John Burnaby writes in his book “Amor Dei”: “There can be no question of what is dominant in Augustine’s conception of Christian love. It is the unsatisfied longing of the home-sick heart. God’s right hand stretched down to us in our Lord Jesus Christ is to be grasped by us with firm faith, expected with sure hope, longed for with ardent love”. We won’t actually get there in this life. We get a glimpse of God’s love and we want to respond to it. The great thing is to go on wanting this above all things.
All this you know already but I make no apology for repeating it. For like the priest and the Levite in the parable, we are continually being tempted to make something less than loving God and loving one another our main concern. May God help us to continue to do so.
Timothy Stanton CR