Homilies, 2004, Cycle-C

2004—Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time—C


I wonder how many of you ever banged out the old tune "heart and soul" on the piano. I always remember it as a duet. One person playing the bass chords and another way up in the high notes. "Heart and soul I fell in love with you, Heart and soul I fell in love with you da da, etc. And the piece would go on an on until the players exhausted themselves or anyone listening shouted "enough".

Heart and Soul! In two of our scriptures today we hear the words "heart and soul". Moses says to the people, return to the Lord with your heart and soul. And Jesus quoting the law says "you shall love the lord your god with your whole heart and soul (and mind and strength) (and your neighbor as yourself)

My question this morning (evening) is what do you put you "heart and soul" into? Your work, your golf game, routing for the red sox, gardening, politics, social justice issues, your faith? And of course the accompanying question if do you put your heart and soul into your relationships? With your loved ones, with Jesus Christ, with God? What is it that claims you "heart and soul"? As Pedro Arrupe, former general of the Jesuits says

"What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination will affect everything. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning, what you will do with your evening, how you spend your weekends, what you read, who you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude.

I wonder about that question in today's parable of the Good Samaritan? What so claimed his heart and soul that he was willing to move out of his comfort zone and care for the man who had been left for dead? Nowhere in the parable is this Samaritan referred to as "good" by Jesus. We call him the "good Samaritan" not only because his actions have a good effect on the other but because he puts his whole "heart and soul" into caring for this wounded one. In this Samaritan, we see one whose passionate love of God cannot be distinguished from his love of the neighbor.

But what about the priest and the Levite? Is Jesus saying they are "bad" people? It is in fact their love of God and the demands of ritual purity that are higher priorities than stopping to help this man in need. For if he were dead as he appeared the priest and Levite would be unable to perform the rituals prescribed by the law. Is Jesus suggesting that they are bad people? I don't think so. Their "heart and soul" is invested in performing acts required by their religious law, but it is clearly at the expense of the one in need. Where the Samaritan spares no expense for the wounded man. The priest and Levite are unable to expend themselves in compassion.

Let me suggest then that this parable is not about who's good and whose bad, who's better than whom, or who's best of all. Let me suggest that this story of Jesus that captures our imagination is a "love story" at its best. If you have fallen in love with God "heart and soul" you are willing to do some outrageous things. You are willing to "spare no expense" for the other. "

In his latest book, Moral Wisdom, Lessons and Texts from the Catholic Tradition, Jesuit moral theologian Jim Keenan reminds us that this parable is not about a moral lesson, about good verses bad people or actions. It is a foundational Christian parable because Christ is the one, who like the Samaritan, comes to "spare no expense" for wounded humankind, left for dead. Christ is the one who models for us a love of God that is so compelling that it always chooses to love without counting the cost.

Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?

As Pedro Arrupe says "Fall in love, stay in love and it will decide everything.

Copyright © 2007 St. Ignatius.