Tuesday, October 18, 2011

A few notes before observing the Feast of St. Luke

I am sorely tempted to "bust off" a long post on Phillip Blond's efforts to revive distributism and his convincing critique of our current political and economic system. However, given the lateness of the day and the fact that it is the Feast of St. Luke, the evangelist, I will refrain for now. Besides, I am currently running the risk of overwhelming myself with books. I need to do some more synthesizing.

On a wholly different note, I want to thank Dr. John Janero, whose doctoral thesis was on Karl Rahner and who, like me and so many others, shares in the charism given to Don Giussani, for graciously taking me up on my invitation to critically respond to my last post, which dealt with nature and grace and some implications for experience as articulated by Rahner and Giussani (if you want to read what he wrote just "add" me at Google+, find the post and read his comments).

One of the unique features of St. Luke's Gospel is that the author tells us up front (i.e., in the first four verses), that he is not an eyewitness of the events about which he writes, but "decided, after investigating everything accurately anew, to write it down in an orderly sequence..." (Luke 1:3). Since in our contemporary Western world there is so much going on regarding social justice, which, despite Glenn Beck's protestations, is not a code word for communism or even government-enforced collectivism, I want to focus on the really challenging aspects of the third Gospel. The way i see it, social justice is the way we recognize not only that we are our brother's keeper, but keep Jesus' commandment to love my neighbor as myself (Luke 10:27). In His teaching in Luke, Jesus says that keeping the law consists first of loving God with my whole self and then loving my neighbor as I love myself. To Jesus' Jewish listeners this would be nothing new as both injunctions are found in the law. The first in Deuteronomy 6:5 and the second in Leviticus 19:18.

So, where's the added value of having the Lawgiver re-iterate the law? This comes in the parable that follows; that of the Good Samaritan. Samaritans and Jews had a very hostile relationship. Samaritans inhabited the land that separated Judah, where Jerusalem is located, from Jesus' native Galilee. Samaritans were a mixed population of Jews and those resettled there by Assyrians in the 8th century BC, during the first Jewish exile. Like pagan peoples, Samaritans were considered unclean and inferior by most ancient Jews. The mutual hostility was no doubt increased by the fact that Samaritans continued many Jewish practices and customs. As we see in the Lord's encounter with the Samaritan woman in the fourth Gospel, they considered Mount Gerazim the proper place to worship God, not the temple in Jerusalem.

Jesus' parable is told as in answer to a question he is asked- "And who is my neighbor?" (Luke 10:29)

A man fell victim to robbers as he went down from Jerusalem to Jericho. They stripped and beat him and went off leaving him half-dead. A priest happened to be going down that road, but when he saw him, he passed by on the opposite side. Likewise a Levite came to the place, and when he saw him, he passed by on the opposite side. But a Samaritan traveler who came upon him was moved with compassion at the sight. He approached the victim, poured oil and wine over his wounds and bandaged them. Then he lifted him up on his own animal, took him to an inn and cared for him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper with the instruction, "Take care of him. If you spend more than what I have given you, I shall repay you on my way back." Which of these three, in your opinion, was neighbor to the robbers’ victim?
The Lord's interrogator responded, "The one who treated him with mercy." Then "Jesus said to him, 'Go and do likewise'" (Luke 10:30-37).

This is the challenge, the provocation, with which we are frequently confronted in reality, that is, in the circumstances we live. In a contemporary context, were Jesus teaching a crowd of "practicing Christians" in the United States, He might substitute for the Samaritan a Muslim, or perhaps even a humanitarian agnostic or atheist. Jesus is emphatic about acting in the manner of the Samaritan and is unequivocal that this is the way to life.

Scripture teaches: "If anyone says, 'I love God,' but hates his brother, he is a liar; for whoever does not love a brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen" (1 John 4:20).

Almighty God,
you called Luke the physician,
whose praise is in the gospel,
to be an evangelist and physician of the soul:
by the grace of the Spirit
and through the wholesome medicine of the gospel,
give your Church the same love and power to heal;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.

(Collect from Anglican Morning Prayer)

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