Father James with an employee of Wrigley Field after he said Mass for the Chicago Cubs
Letters from a Pastor to His People- July 14, 2019
Preoccupation. That, to me, is one of the themes of the parable of the Good Samaritan from today's Gospel.
The priest passes by the victim because the priest is on his way to the temple to worship. The priest will be delayed and, furthermore, if he comes into contact with a potential non-Jew (remember, the man has been beaten and stripped, so there's no way to identify him as a Jew or Gentile), the priest will be impure and have to go through ritual washings, delaying him even more. The priest is too preoccupied. He needs to serve God by getting to the temple. He passes the beaten man by.
The Levite passes by the victim because he saw the priest ahead of him do the same and he doesn't want to have to answer his critics who would question him for stopping. If he stops for this man, he'll have to stop for others. He's a priest, not a care-giver. He needs to serve God by getting to the temple. That's what the Levite tells himself.
The Samaritan is not worried or preoccupied with anything else. He does the right thing.
Next Sunday we're going to hear the Gospel of Martha and Mary. Mary sits at the Lord's feet, while Martha busies herself in the kitchen. Martha thinks she is serving God by occupying herself in the kitchen and not being present to Jesus.
Do we have our own conception of worship? That is, do we serve God on our own terms? We decide what we will do for God and when? Do we ignore the occasions that come up in our day to serve and love God?
I know I'm guilty of this. I'll give you an example. I try to do spiritual reading every day. For at least ten minutes (more, if I'm lucky) I sit down and read from a spiritual or theological book. It's a very worthwhile activity and a form of prayer I think the Lord is happy with me doing. Well, sometimes when I'm reading my phone will ring or I'll get a text, and I think to myself: "No, don't answer it because that will interfere with your time with God." But I don't think I'm right. What if that call was an emergency to go anoint someone dying at a hospital? Would I not be serving and loving God if I dropped the book and administered Anointing of the Sick? I'd probably be loving and serving God more! So, you see, I can get stuck in my own conceived 'form' of prayer.
The parable of the Good Samaritan has many lessons. One lesson for today is simply to be flexible; to be conscious of God speaking to you in the present moment. It's important to have our routines and our standard for prayer and worship. But God might throw something or someone in your path, outside of your routine and standard, to stretch you. If you respond and abandon your previous desire, guess what? You've just made a sacrifice of love for God. You've fulfilled the command: You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, and with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself. And you will have lived!
Thank you again to all who helped with Totus Tuus/Vacation Bible School. It was a great experience! Otherwise, I hope you are enjoying these summer days. Go Cubs!
Yours in Christ,