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15th Sunday of Ordinary Time 2013

I hope everyone had a good Independence Day holiday. It’s a great time to gather with friends and family and enjoy the color, light, and sound of the fireworks as we celebrate the birth of our nation. Oddly enough, this holiday also reminds me of the birth of our Church. Just as the members of the Continental Congress sought freedom from the taxes and burdens of the British Crown, Jesus and his disciples sought the freedom to engage in relationship with God without the taxes and burdens of the Sanhedrin and the Temple hierarchy. Just as the British Crown had grown bloated and complacent to the colonists, the Temple had grown bloated and complacent to the followers entrusted to their care.

July is the month of new beginnings. For many, July marks the beginning of the new fiscal year. July is also when many pastors and administrators start their new assignments in the Archdiocese (as we celebrate the 5th anniversary of Fr. Ray coming back to OLR as her pastor). This theme of new beginnings also threads its way through our readings for this 15th Sunday of Ordinary Time.

Deuteronomy 30:10-14
Psalm 69:14, 17, 30-31, 33-34, 36, 37 (or Psalm 19:8, 9, 10, 11)
Colossians 1:15-20
Luke 10:25-37

We open with a reading from the Book of Deuteronomy.  Here Moses is presenting the people of Israel with an opportunity to start over… and the path is simple:  Just follow God’s Commandments (the Law).  This isn’t anything great or mysterious… for as Jesus taught, the core of the Law is based on loving one another.  Curious too how this book of Deuteronomy was “discovered” by King Josiah at a time when he was looking for a new beginning, seeking a renewal of the people to this same Mosaic covenant with God.

Our second reading begins a four week study of St. Paul’s letter to the Colossians.  Here the new Church was struggling with Jesus' role within the cosmos (not surprising given the pagan practices of this region in the heart of modern day Turkey), which in Paul’s mind was keeping them from the real work of the Gospel:  to love one another.  In this introductory excerpt, Paul addresses these issues up front in an effort to put them to rest… quite simply, that Jesus is at the center of everything.  From there, he is now free to explore what it means to be a member of the Body of Christ.

Our gospel from Luke gives us our major theme:  Love thy neighbor. Jesus is confronted by a “scholar of the Law” asking what is important to gain salvation.  Jesus, knowing that the man is a scholar of the Law, asks him to summarize the Law, which he rightly answers as (and I paraphrase), “to love God… and love your neighbor…”  But the scholar presses Jesus further by asking “who is my neighbor,” Jesus gives us the parable of the good Samaritan – a biblical gem unique to Luke’s gospel, and breaking open for us what it means to love your neighbor.  While this broader definition can challenge us, we also know that by following the Law, by following Christ, we can always take advantage of that new beginning, a chance to start over and try again.

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