Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Proper 10 C - Jul 10, 2016

Holy Cross Monastery, West Park, NY
Br. Reinaldo Martinez-Cubero, n/OHC
Proper 10 Year C - Sunday - July 10, 2016

Deuteronomy 30:9-14
Colossians 1:1-14
Luke 10:25-37

The Good Samaritan - Vincent Van Gogh 1890 - Kroller-Muller Museum, Otterlo, Netherlands
 No beating around the bush. The message is quite clear. Jesus' parables were intended to push his listeners into new ways of thinking, to blow all the conventional notions away, and to challenge the religious elite's sensibilities of moral propriety. Over and over, Jesus broke down the barriers that his religious culture had erected. He made intimate connections between people and God by passing out forgiveness freely without the need of Temple sacrifices. He made intimate connections among people who were regarded as "other". Much of Jesus' teaching had to do with dismantling our binary way of thinking, the various ways we have of making distinctions and creating hierarchies of identity - neighbor and stranger, good and bad, us and them. He replaced that whole system of "either/or" with a new way. We are all connected, like the vine and the branches.

Franciscan friar and author, Richard Rohr writes: "...When Jesus offers the command to love our neighbors as we love ourselves...he connects the two great commandments of love...often, we think this means to love our neighbor with the same amount of love -- as much as we love ourselves -- when it really means that it is the same Source and the same Love that allows me to love myself, and others, and God -- at the same time...How you love is how you have accessed love.... How we love anything is how we love everything". Perhaps loving ourselves is about building our capacity to love in general? I can say, from my own slow conversion experience these past two years that the more I surrender and learn to love those parts about myself that are hard for me to love, those traits that seem to be part of my DNA, and I struggle to learn to live with, the more my capacity to love in general widens.

The command to love God with all one's being, to love one's neighbor as oneself, and even to love one's enemies is central to the Gospels. In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus specifies this by showing how the Samaritan- the hated, unclean, heretic, bitter enemy is the one who fulfills the command by reaching out extravagantly, to one who is not only a stranger, but also his enemy. The lawyer who has challenged Jesus, correctly identifies the neighbor as "the one who showed mercy". In The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare the character of Portia describes mercy in this way:
The quality of mercy is not strained.
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath. It is twice blessed:
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.
'Tis mightiest in the mightiest. It becomes
The thron├Ęd monarch better than his crown.
His scepter shows the force of temporal power,
The attribute to awe and majesty
Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings,
But mercy is above this sceptered sway.
It is enthron├Ęd in the hearts of kings.
It is an attribute to God himself.
Perhaps when we show mercy, is when we are closest to God because it keeps us available to one another, and opens our heart to strangers. It requires us to realize our own weakness enough to be kind to those who are struggling with theirs. "Beware those who show no mercy", warns Sister Joan Chittister. "They are dangerous people because they have either not faced themselves or are lying to themselves about what they find there."

When I first saw the news of the horrendous acts of violence that took place this week, I was filled with confusion, disbelief, and outrage! I must admit that my first reaction was to wish retribution for the victims. But there is no way to look at those videos, as horrendous as they are, and not see the policemen's humanity. I find what I saw beyond outrageous and horrifying, but I also saw frightened men; terrified of being shot and killed. Was their reaction based on color bias and preconceived ideas about black men? As a Latino, a person of color, that was my experience of what I saw. Do I believe it to be part of systemic racism in our country? As a Latino, a person of color, that is my experience of what I see. Do I believe it has to do with white privilege? I will let my white brothers and sisters deal with that one because I have my own biases and prejudices to deal with, and to say: "Them! It's their fault!" would be, I believe, unhealthy for my spiritual life. And yes, I do want to shout "Enough!!!
 

And I hope that you, like me, want to a part of whatever would be an attempt to a solution to the racial divisions in this country. In the meantime, showing mercy to those who are like us is not what Jesus was talking about. Showing mercy to those to whom we owe a debt is not what Jesus was talking about. Showing mercy to our own group, our own family, our peeps, is not what Jesus was talking about. Jesus was talking about the much harder choice of showing mercy to the stranger, the outsider, and the enemy. This is the man who while hanging nailed to a cross, bleeding to death, and gasping for air, prayed for the very barbarians who crucified, not only him, but thousands: "Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing." To truly love my neighbor as myself is hard, and it is a different way of being in the world. It is the radical shift I must continue to make as I continue to learn how to live and work for that Reign of God, proclaimed by the one who befriended Samaritan, tax collector, Roman soldier, Pharisee, Sadducee, widow, leper, and the list goes on and on. So, as a follower of Jesus, and with the steady revelation of God's mercy, I must choose the deep unknowing that moves me in the direction of loving my neighbor as myself.
 

And finally, I'll say this: That Samaritan helped that man not knowing what that man would do with the mercy shown him. There's a Spiritual I know that goes something like this:
I helped my brother the other day.
Give him my right hand,
But just as soon as ever my back was turned,
He scandalized my name.
Now, do you call that a brother? No, no
He scandalized my name.
What's the end of the story? The man changed his opinion of Samaritans, and was grateful to the Samaritan the rest of his life, or as the spiritual says: just as soon as ever the Samaritan's back was turned,
he scandalized his name. We are allowed full control of the mercy we choose to show others, but what they will do with that mercy, that is not for us to control. ~Amen 


References:
 

Cynthia Bourgeault: The Wisdom Jesus (Shambhala, 2008)

Richard Rorh, OFM: The Naked Now (Crossroad, 2009)
 

Sandra M. Schneiders, IHM: Buying the Field (Paulist Press, 2013)
 

William Shakespeare: The Merchant of Venice (1599)
 

Joan Chittister, OSB: God's Tender Mercy (Twenty-Third Publications, 2010)
 

Kathleen Norris: Amazing Grace (Riverhead Books, 1998)
 

Scandalized My Name (African-American Spiritual)

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