The Church: Too Commanding and Not Sufficiently Compelling?
15th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C

In the name of religious observance, the priest and his assistant refused to come to the aid of the injured man. Perhaps they thought him to be dead. If so, to touch him would be to become ritually unclean. On the other hand, perhaps they simply recognized him as a Samaritan. One who in their view distorted Godís revealed word and commandments and was therefore better left to his proper fate.

Whatever the cause, the one certain factor is that they were scrupulously observant, religious men who, in their zeal for the Mosaic Law and all of its details, lost sight of the bigger picture.

How easy it is to piously uphold the law, any law, and having done so, to use it to justify oneís insular attitude toward society. For example there are, I suppose, some just laws concerning immigration. But such laws certainly do not justify our taking advantage of the vulnerability of illegal immigrants in order to enhance our lifestyles.

It goes without saying that rules and regulations are vital to any well ordered society that seeks to promote the common good but these standards are not in place so as to give their adherents a whole spectrum of people to dismiss as being inferior or unworthy.

We Catholics are members of a church often rightly perceived as being too commanding and insufficiently compelling. For example, I have seen priests rigidly if not haughtily refuse to baptize certain babies for reasons very similar to those attributed to the two holy men of the Gospel.

I suggest that this Gospel is urging each of us to examine his or her attitude toward nonconformists in our society especially those within our own family circles.

An enlightened Cardinal Archbishop of Milan was recently quoted as saying: "I am not so concerned about people obeying all our rules and regulations as I am about their being inspired by the Gospel."

That Gospel clearly states that the way to be numbered among Godís people is to observe the divine imperative to be merciful.

Sometimes we fail. Sometimes others upon whom we depend for example fail. Jesus and Paul remind us that the law of mercy, charity and love is never to be eclipsed. It is primary and immutable.


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