15th Sunday C 7/14/19 Dt30;Coll;Lkl0:25-37 JMayzikSJ
Recently I was with one of my former students, eating great quesadillas at Chipotle. We were talking about a movie I had recommended called My Dinner with Andre, which deals essentially with the question of the guy in today’s gospel story, kind of like, 'what's the meaning of life'. I find myself having that conversation with young people often these days.
It took me a while to get into it with him, but I warmed up, and in the midst of my rambling he suddenly looked distracted, and leapt up from the table. A woman was struggling with too many drinks and a package of food, and everything was teetering in her hands. My friend met her at the exact instant everything went flying—into him! He was suddenly wearing three large cokes, a plate of guacamole, a burrito and a taco salad. Drenched and stained, he looked like a Mexican dish himself. I of course went over to him, with others, as we tried to help clean up the mess. He was smiling and laughing the whole time, reassuring the woman that he was OK, and she shouldn’t feel badly about it.
When it was all over, and he was somewhat cleaned up, we sat down again to finish our meal, and our talk. Where were we? I asked. “We were talking about the meaning of life,” he said. Oh, yeah, I replied, and I suddenly realized that the answer was right there in front of me, as it says in the first reading, "it is something very near to you, already in your mouths and in your hearts, you have only to carry it out."
What's the meaning of life, indeed? Can I suggest the answer? It's about taking care of one another. That's all the really matters. That we take care of one another because we have been given one another by the one who made us all in love. Love God who made you in love, and love the brother or sister that he made as well. That's the ultimate reason for us to be, the ultimate thing we need to do in our lives. We need to forget all the rest, all the things that we compete about.
Compassion. That's the key word in the Gospel today. Compassion. The good lawyer wanted to know how he could get into heaven, and Jesus said, well, to get into heaven you've got to have 'compassion', he said, you've got to have 'compassion' for others, and take care of them.
That's a great word, compassion. I love that word. You know what it means? If you've had Latin anywhere along the way you'd recognize that it is combination of two words: 'with' and 'feel'. The way to get into heaven, Jesus said, is to be a neighbor in compassion. To "feel with" one another is the most godly thing we can do, the most Christ-like thing we can do. What do you think Jesus was all about if not compassion?
The “Good Samaritan” parable was a favorite of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He actually spoke about it the night before he was killed, as part of his speech in which he talked about going to the mountaintop. He framed the parable in a beautiful and very human way. The way Dr. King put it: “The first question that the priest asked, the first question that the Levite asked was, ‘If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?” But then the Good Samaritan came by and turned the question around. ‘If I do NOT stop to help this man, what will happen to HIM?’”
We may not realize it, but we are all on a road like the one in the parable of the Good Samaritan. We are all on that journey. And what really matters on the journey – our journey — are those we encounter along the way. How do we treat them? Do we notice them? Do we avoid them? Do we act like they don’t exist? Or: do we see them, with all their wounds and scars, and see a neighbor in need? Do we, perhaps, even see ourselves?’
There are vulnerable people at our borders at this very moment who are fleeing from political and economic conditions you and I wouldn’t tolerate. There are people in our cities and rural communities who are addicted to substances that will ultimately take their lives. A few blocks from our church, hundreds of our sisters and brothers are facing a night without food in their stomachs and without a bed upon which to lay their head. There are people without health care, children without clean water, women without equal opportunities, elders without access to affordable medicine or affordable housing. And around our world, in Latin and South America, in Africa, in Haiti, in Asia, in the Middle East and many other places innocent people are losing their lives to controllable disease, extreme poverty, and in wars that are not of their own making.
Look at that cross up there. There's God "feeling with" us, arms wide open to feel as much as humanly possible with us. Feeling our pain, and our hurts, and our disappointments-but also our hopes and our joys and our dreams. It's hard being us, you know, for a lot of reasons that are our own fault, it's really hard to be a human being lots of times. It's hard to be a mother, and it's hard to be a father, it's hard to be a child at times. It's hard sometimes to just get through a day, much less a life, if for instance you are the wrong color, or maybe the wrong religion, or maybe the wrong sex. It's really hard to be gay, it's hard to be overweight, it's hard to have no money, sometimes it's even hard to have a lot. It's hard to be ugly and it's hard to be beautiful too. It's hard to be faithful, and in some ways it's harder still to be faithless. It's terribly hard to be sick, awful to be dying. And one of the hardest things for everyone, everywhere, is to be alone.
Compassion. You want to get into heaven? 'It is something very near to you, already in your mouths and in your heart. You have only to carry it out.' You be compassionate. You "feel with" someone else. Remember what it was like when you were hurting, when you were alone, when you were discriminated against. Forget the competition, let go of the hardness, blow away the indifference. "Feel with" the world around you--in your own house, for God's sake, literally. There are lots of people lying on the roadside, broken and beaten up. Be like him. Open your arms up wide, and "feel with" them. We'll all ride in on that to heaven.