15th Sunday Year C
Theme of the week: How do we love God with all our heart and all our soul?
The Second Reading commences by stating that Christ is “the image of the invisible God” (verse 15). Each day, we come into contact with God who we cannot see through God the Son who we can see. This is Jesus who walked and lived among us, and still does so today. Paul then goes on to emphasise the role of Christ in human salvation. Humankind was created in the image of God and Christ is the proof of that. Christ is fully human and fully God. Because Christ is human, he can die. Because he is God, the gravity of God dying atone for the sins of the whole human (verse 20); and bought for the whole of humanity a share of eternal life. And he did it out of love. He loves us infinitely; and we in turn ought to love him with all our heart and all our soul.
Let us reflect: what does it means to love God with all our heart and all our soul? This question is posed to us twice in this week’s Scripture passages, in Deut 30:10 and Lk 10:27.
The First Reading suggests we must first seek the commandment of God. It tells us that the commandment of God is not beyond our reach. In fact, it is very near – it is in our mouth and in our heart (verse 14). The New Testament repeats this teaching in Heb 8:10: “I will put my laws in their minds, and write them on their hearts”. My brothers and sisters, God has written His commandment into our hearts so that it is not beyond our reach or our strength to obey it. As Paul said, “God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength” (1 Cor 10:13). Hence, when we succumb to temptations, it is never because the temptation is too strong. Rather, it is because we allow ourselves to be weak. Remember, God always provide us the grace to resist temptations. When we fall, it is because we allow ourselves to be overcome by temptations. One reason we are weak is because we treat God’s commandment as an external law imposed upon us. Limited by this mindset, we find ourselves constantly struggling against God’s commandment as an external constraint. It is only when we are able to internalise God commandment into our hearts that the struggle ceases. God’s commandment is given to us to help us love our God and love our neighours better. When we truly desire in our hearts to love better, that is when the commandment of God becomes the commandment of our hearts. It is then that we are at peace with God’s commandment as an internal constraint within our hearts. As Paul so beautifully put it, it is the new mindset that “it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me” (Gal 2:20).
What does it mean to love God with all our heart and all our soul? In the Gospel, Jesus provides us the second part of the answer. A lawyer asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbour?” This question is significant because in Jesus’ time, the Jews believe that only fellow-Jews are their neighbours. The Pharisees have an even narrower view on this, believing that only fellow-Pharisees are their neighbours. So Jesus told the story of the Good Samaritan. In the story, the supposedly righteous priest and Levite would not help the injured man, for fear of making themselves spiritually unclean. Only the Samaritan, though being a member of an outcast group, showed compassion. At the end of the story, Jesus asked the lawyer, “which of these three … was a neighbour to the man?” (verse 36) Notice that Jesus did not directly answer the original question posed to him: “Who is my neighbour?” In fact, he turned the question around and was in fact asking the lawyer, “to whom should you be a neighbour to?” Let us pause and reflect on this for a moment.
Christian love should not be limited by human boundaries. In fact, to ask who is one’s neighbour is by itself an attempt to define human boundaries. Hence, the very basis of the question “who is my neighour” runs counter to Christian teachings. As we read this passage, Jesus is asking me: “to whom should I be a neighbour to?” In other words, “who should I love?” In today’s xenophobic world, where it has become common practice to discriminate against people dissimilar to us, be it on the grounds of religion, culture, race, social background, gender or other characteristics, Jesus is posing this challenge to us: who should I be neighbour to? It is only by showing the universal unconditional love of agape to our fellow human beings that we can truly claim to be loving God with all our heart and all our soul. For many of us, this is a great challenge indeed.
“For those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen” (1 Jn 4:20).