Bishop Anthony B. Taylor delivered this homily July 14 at Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in Magnolia.
When preparing for my First Confession I was taught that we should live according to the Ten Commandments and the Eight Beatitudes, but then I discovered a problem: you can’t obey a beatitude because the Beatitudes do not tell us what to do, they tell us how we should be: poor in spirit, humble, merciful, pure, peaceful, courageous.
Naturally these attitudes produce actions and lead to results: holiness in this life and a big reward in heaven, which is good. Once again, the problem: how do we become that kind of person? We can change our external behavior in order to obey a commandment but how do we change our inner attitudes to become a different person on the inside?
Jesus gives two answers to this question: the Old Testament answer and then later his new answer. In today’s Gospel he gives us the Old Testament answer, which is that there are two great commandments that contain the other 10: If we love God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength, we will keep holy the Lord’s day and not have any false gods or take God’s name in vain. And if we love our neighbor as ourselves, we will not kill, steal, lie, covet, etc.
And since love is an inner attitude, love of God and neighbor will produce good deeds that go way beyond those listed in the 10 Commandments, as Jesus illustrates today in his parable of the Good Samaritan.
Just before his death, Jesus will replace this Old Testament answer, the two Great Commandments of the Old Testament, with his new and far greater Great Commandment of the New Testament: that now we love one another as he has loved us. Not just loving our neighbor as much as we love ourselves — which in some cases may not be very much. Now we are to love others as Jesus loves them, meaning that we are to give our lives for them just as Jesus has given his life for us.
It’s only when we begin to love like Jesus loves that we truly start to live the beatitudes, because the inner content of the Beatitudes is sacrificial love — death to self for the benefit of others. Indeed, it’s also only then that we begin truly to love God with all our heart, mind soul and strength and our neighbor as ourselves.
Who was a true neighbor to the man who was mugged on the road from Jericho to Jerusalem? The Samaritan! The one who treated him with mercy. Then Jesus says, “Go and do likewise.”
Help others and your inner attitudes will begin to change. Make sacrifices for those in need and you’ll become a different person on the inside.
Today your parishioner, Pablo Quintana, signs his letter of intent to enter the seminary and begin formation that will, God willing, lead eventually to his ordination to the priesthood. And I think the Gospel we have today is quite appropriate for a day like this.
For Pablo this is a response to God’s invitation not only to love God with all his heart, mind, soul and strength, but also to love others — everyone — as Jesus loves us, meaning 100 percent, sacrificially, like the Good Samaritan in today’s Gospel, indeed like Jesus on the cross.
There are many wounded people in today’s world, victims lying in the ditch like the man in today’s Gospel and today, as then, even priests are tempted to pass by on the other side, but it cannot be that way with us.
Who was the one who did God’s will? Our Gospel says, “The one who treated him with mercy.” Pablo, the Lord says to you as he says to me and everyone else here today: “Go and do likewise.” And today that is what you commit yourself to prepare to do.
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