Scripture reading notes for 7/14
The readings for the Fifth Sunday after Pentecost call Christians to live in love—both to God and to our neighbor. Jesus is our Good Samaritan. He showed by his cross that his love for the world is not selective, but abundant. He has bound our wounds with the healing medicine of the gospel and brought us into his church, where he takes care of us at his own expense. As a result, we are free to go and do likewise, caring for others instead of watching out for ourselves.
- The parable of the Good Samaritan in the Gospel reading illustrates God’s will that we should love all people, just as Jesus Christ loved us.
- The Old Testament reading gives examples of how ancient Israel was instructed to love their neighbors, a natural result of loving God above all things.
- In the New Testament reading, St. Paul praises the believers for giving evidence of their faith by showing love toward others.
The Gospel reading:
In this episode, an expert on the law tested Jesus about how to inherit eternal life. Like any good teacher, Jesus asked the man to answer his own question, and the man answered correctly. Jesus agreed that if a person perfectly fulfills the law of God, that individual will receive eternal life on the Last Day! But the expert seemed to realize the impossibility of fulfilling the law, so he tried to look for a loophole to limit God’s uncompromising demands.
In response, Jesus told the famous parable of the Good Samaritan, which claims that all people are to be treated as neighbors, with mercy and compassion. Our neighbor is any human being, especially one who needs our help. Even someone who has done me some sort of injury or harm does not stop being my neighbor.
So it was that Jesus became the Good Samaritan for us. He befriended us while we were his enemies and went even further, laying down his life for us. In this way he healed us and gave us life everlasting.
The Old Testament reading:
Leviticus 18:1-5, 19:9-18
Since Jesus has so loved us, we also want to love our neighbors. How? The Old Testament reading gives some ideas.
God wants his holiness reflected in the lives and conduct of his people. He warned the Israelites not to follow the social and legal customs of the Canaanites. Israel could choose to live in a way that conformed with God’s expectations or in a way that conformed with the expectations of their neighbors. The first choice would lead to blessing and prosperity, the second to destruction and ruin. As in the Gospel reading, Lev. 18:5 claims that the person who perfectly obeyed these laws would live.
Chapter 19 expresses principles that extend from the Ten Commandments. These verses articulate a communal ethic, defined by mutual provision and respect. The exhortations offered cover a range of issues, touching on the agricultural, legal, and social aspects of life. These laws were given to ancient Israel, not to us. Yet it’s not hard to see their expression of love for the neighbor that remains relevant to us today. A sincere love of God above all things will result in this meticulous care for the love of one’s neighbor. It is Lev. 19:18 that is quoted in the Gospel reading by the expert in the law.
The New Testament reading:
The New Testament reading presents St. Paul’s commendation to a group of Christians who had been doing pretty well at loving their neighbors as themselves. Empowered by the Spirit, they were bearing fruits of faith and love for the benefit of God’s kingdom and their neighbor. Paul prayed that the work of the Spirit would continue, not only in the heart of the Colossians, but also in the hearts of believers today. Rescued from darkness, we too know and embody the love of Christ, bearing fruit in every good work done for the love of our neighbor.
The Greek word agapē, often translated “love,” is a general word for affection and warm regard. The New Testament uses the word to describe compassion for other people, love for God or Christ, and the love God and Christ have for humanity and for each other. The gospel message makes the love denoted by agapē more of a mindset than a feeling. It involves putting the needs and interests of others before your own—even enduring suffering and hardship for the sake of others.