Fr. Scott Lewis discusses the spiritual path of of loving one's neighbour and showing mercy. Graphic by David Chen

Mercy is the path we need to choose

  • June 23, 2016

15th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C) July 10 (Deuteronomy 30:10-14; Psalm 69; Colossians 1:15-20; Luke 10:25-37)

People love to make the simplest things unbelievably complicated. Perhaps there is a fear that if something is clear and easy to understand it must be superficial or lacking in authenticity. This is certainly the case with how we should live and conduct ourselves.  

This can also be a great way of evasion — some plead that the difficulty of discerning the truth absolves them of responsibility, or they might deny there is a truth to find. Deuteronomy has no patience with evasion or complication. The commandments of God are clear and they are right at hand. Moses emphasized that they are not “up there” somewhere or in a distant place. The word of God is so very near: in our mouth and heart. In fact, it is written in our hearts if we are at all attuned to the Spirit. 

The best teacher in the world is the word of God residing in the heart. The commandment is simple: love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength. God asks for our total commitment — that God be the centre of our lives. Fidelity and commitment — both are difficult, but never more so than in our own culture. Superficiality and addiction to the constant stimulus of something new and exciting can very easily lead us away from God and from a satisfying life. The answer to our life questions is not out there or up there, but within, and we can never plead that we didn’t know or no one told us. 

The author of Colossians goes further. The word of God is still very near, but in Christ, the image of the invisible God. Christ was before all things, and now holds all together in Himself. He is the very centre of creation, the core of all relationships. God in Christ can be found in all things — the universe itself is the best book of spiritual instruction. He brings peace and reconciliation through the blood of His cross. 

The lawyer also wanted answers to life’s questions — he wanted to know what he had to do to inherit eternal life. Jesus did not make up something or give a new teaching but appealed to what was already written in the Law. The lawyer replied by quoting the root commandment from Deuteronomy — “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and all you soul, and all your might.” He added from Leviticus, “your neighbour as yourself” as a way of clarifying what love of God meant. There can be no real love of God apart from love of other people. Jesus affirmed His answer, and assured him that if he governed his life by this principle he would live. But as a lawyer, the man wanted more precision: who is my neighbour? Jesus replied with a parable-story about the Samaritan who aided the who was man beaten and left for dead by the side of the road. Two members of the religious establishment passed the man by and did not give aid. It was the despised and rejected Samaritan that stopped to help the unfortunate crime victim. Jesus asked the very pointed question: which one of the three was a neighbour to the man lying on the road? The answer: the one who showed him mercy. 

This is the spiritual — and humane — path for our own age. Loving one’s neighbour, showing mercy, has nothing to do with race, gender, sexuality, social class, theology, lifestyle, politics, religion or personal preferences. If we reach out to others unconditionally with active compassion, we will live; if we refuse to do so, or reach out with hate, we will die spiritually. Mercy is how we will live.