October 24, 2017
The Charism Statement of the Congregation of the Resurrection maintains that we are called “to respond with great love to the Father’s great love for us” and “to work together for the resurrection of society, bringing his life and love to all.” In these statements, we find the great commandments of Christ to love God with all our heart, with all our soul, and with all our minds, and to love our neighbor as our self.
It is interesting how much emphasis Jesus puts on these commandments and how intertwined it is to love God and to love our neighbor. In Matthew’s gospel Jesus reminds us that “the whole law and the prophets depend upon these two commandments.”
In Luke’s version of this story, when the questioner asks Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus responds with the parable of the Good Samaritan. Here the Samaritan, the stranger, shows himself to be the true neighbor. The man who has been beaten has wounds, that is, blood that would make one ritually unclean. Hence, the priest and the Levite pass by so that they will not be contaminated, and unable to offer sacrifice in the temple. The parable suggests a new center of what it is to be religious: not the temple, but compassion.
In Mark’s version of this story, the questioner provides the two great commandments, adding: “And ‘to love him with all your heart, and with all your understanding, with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself’ is worth more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.” Jesus message is consistent: we cannot say we love God if we do not love our neighbor. In other words, offering sacrifices in the temple can never substitute for love of neighbor. As an indication that Jesus believes the questioner understands this correctly, Jesus says to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God”
As we offer sacrifice at the Eucharist this weekend, we are reminded that this sacrifice should manifest the types of service and sacrifice that we have been living all week and it should inspire us to be people of service and sacrifice to our neighbor in the coming week. The Eucharist serves as the source and summit of our service to others, but it does not substitute for it.