15th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C
Luke 10: 25-37 (Good Samaritan)
It was a hot summer day in 1941 when the alarm sounded throughout a concentration camp in Auschiwitz, Poland. One of the prisoners had escaped and, as a result, cell-block 14 was called to stand at attention for three hours. The following day the fugitive still had not been found so they stood in the scorching heat once again. Finally, the Nazi troops decided to enact their policy for escapees. Ten men were chosen form cell-block 14 to die for the one who had escaped. One of these ten began to cry out, "Please, I have a family, a wife, children, please not me." At that moment, another man, not from among the ten but from that cell-block, stepped forward. Maximillian Kolbe stepped forward and said, "I want to take this place of this man.' At that a Nazi soldier said, "Who is this Polish pig?" Maximillian Kolbe responded, "I am a Polish Catholic priest, I am old and want to take his place." The Nazi soldier conceded and St. Maximillian Kolbe was martyred, killed for the faith.
St. Maximillian Kolbe loved God totally and as a result loved his neighbor. That is the message of the Gospel today. Love of God and love of neighbor! The scholar, a lawyer of Jesus' day, tests Jesus. He asks how he may gain eternal life? Jesus points the finger back at him and challenges him to answer that question himself. The scholar answers correctly, "You shall love God with all your mind, heart, strength, and soul, and neighbor as yourself." Correct, congratulations, you are right! However, the scholar still has another question. "Who is my neighbor?" At that point Jesus answers him as he almost always does, with a story. The story of the good Samaritan shows us that we are called to love God and neighbor.
The Levite and priest loved God. They were known to have worshipped in the temple. However, did they love God with all their heart, mind, soul, and strength? No way! If they did, they would never have walked by the helpless victim on the side of the road. Thanks be to God there was the Good Samarian, who loved God and loved neighbor.
Most people in today’s society profess to love God. Except for a small group of atheists or some who are mad at God, most will say they love God. "I love God, I love Jesus, oh sure." We even have some in the new age groups who will claim to be gods. Ok, so most love God. However, do we love Him with all our heart, mind, strength, and soul? Do we love our neighbor as ourselves?
Here comes the problem! Look at modern history alone. We haven't done very well in this area. "Oh sure I love God, but can I own my neighbor?" Slavery, racism, prejudice all treat others has less than human, lower than ourselves. "Oh yea, I love God, but can I kill my neighbor." Nazi Germany treating Jewish, Catholics, Christians and anyone else who stood in their way of becoming the super race. Today, are we much better off? No way!
We still have a group of people who are being treated as lower or less than human! The unborn, the most innocent of human beings are being killed in the name of choice and rights. They are being told they aren't persons as slaves, Jewish and many others have been told throughout history. I realize this is a sensitive issue and many may say, "Oh Fr. Sistare, you shouldn't talk about this." Unfortunately, there are priests like the one in our Gospel today, who would rather walk on the other side of the road and neglect the cry of the helpless victim. I am aware that many choose to not speak on this topic, but not here! I and all of you must speak for these innocent children of God! Perhaps I am preaching to the choir, but the choir must go forth and wake up this world! No one has the right to declare that someone else isn't a person because of their sex, race, religion, age or even size!!! We are called to love God totally and love each and every one of our neighbors as ourselves.
Earlier we had the children's Mass and I decided to give them this same message. First I asked them what was inside the womb or belly of a pregnant women. They responded, "a baby!" Then I asked them, "are there people who are bigger than you? Are there people smarter than you? Are there people who are better basketball, soccer, and football players than you?" They answered, "yes." Then I asked them, "Does that mean that all those people are more important than you?" They responded, "No!" Thanks be to God these children understood this principle! If they can understand this, then all of us as adults and our world should be able to grasp this most basic truth! Can you imagine if every Catholic or Christian understood this principle? We would stop abortion tomorrow!!!
In closing, what better way to end than to draw your attention to the Crucifix on the wall. You see, there is the answer to how much Jesus loves us! There is the answer to how many people he loves! Jesus stretched out his arms and said this is how much I love you and this how many people I love. I love them all, each and every one regardless of sex, race, religion, age or size! May we love God with all our heart, mind, strength, and soul and love our neighbor as ourselves. May God Bless you all!
Fr. John Sistare is a member of Priests for Life from the Diocese of Providence, Rhode Island.