That’s Everyone – Fr. Anthony Williams

Fr. Anthony Williams’ Homily July 14, 2019

“Without law, laws rather in one sense civil law we would have chaos, but rising one step above that we enter into divine law which brings about a sense of peace and order in God’s universe and often times that divine law in our humanity is ascertained, discovered, understood and sought after with reason, lucidity, rationality and there with the mind and the heart operating together, we can discern moral truths that keep us in right relationship with God and with one another and so we need laws to help provide order.  In the book of Genesis, the first book of the Torah we have the emphasis and certainly with Deuteronomy as well and Leviticus that’s why those are the five books of the law what God ask of us as the chosen people: to love the Lord with all your heart and with all your soul is God’s desire for humanity, human beings and that’s what Genesis and the other five books have passed on to the rest of the human race, Jewish, Christian and so on to provide order in relationships, but to do so we are aware that God is a jealous God and wants the whole heart and because we are human, what distinguishes us from the animal Kingdom or those species in the animal kingdom, the lower animal Kingdom is our ability to reason and to reflect back on who we are and why we are here.  The animals can not do that. They are guided by instinct which removes them from having to make those kinds of rational decisions because they don’t have the faculties. That sets us apart from them and that’s why in the New Testament our Lord said, ‘with your whole heart, mind and strength’ and so the Shemah, ‘here O Israel the Lord our God is Lord alone’ that is the greatest of the commandments which the young lawyer knew and of course our Lord himself a Jew as with every Jew prayed that prayer every day and so we have a connection here between what is in the New Testament and what is in the Old Testament, the law, Deuteronomy, so there is that connection. Our Lord did not come to break the commandments, but to fulfill them. He’s a rabbi and he is a Jew and so we hear this today and perhaps we must look more closely at the parable of what’s going on between the lawyer and Jesus and the question, ‘What is the greatest commandment?’ but then the second part comes from the book of Leviticus, chapter 19 ‘and love your neighbor’ and here is where the lawyer asks the question, ‘Well who then is my neighbor?’  The first thought would be that the neighbor is the one next door, geographically near you, one house away, two houses away or three for that matter on the same block or maybe the same classmate in the same school or maybe where you work, those are your neighbors, but 3,000 miles away, 2,000 miles away, those are strangers. They are not my neighbor. I don’t love them. How could I love those whom I don’t know and we get into that line of thinking when we look at the lawyer who’s searching and seeking and now being challenged and so our Lord, always one step ahead, shares the story of the Good Samaritan who stopped. The priest on the other side of the road kept going. The Levite on the other side of the road kept going, but the Samaritan stopped, went over to him, touched him, put him on his own beast after he had poured on wine, oil to nurture the wounds. Took him to the Inn and offered to pay more if more was due. That’s an act of kindness, an act of charity, but before getting to the heart of the matter, the statement needs to be made that somehow in the old testament is the mention of an alien in an alien land and we know that Abraham was an immigrant from the land of Ur to Cana, buried his wife at Bak pala, land which he bought from the hitites, but he was an alien and yet they lived okay in peace and I metion that because we have problems in our world today with immigrants wether they are documented or undocumented there are problems.  There are attitudes. There are feelings. There are emotions, some entrenched, some out of anger, some out of greed. Whatever the reason and I’m not judging I’m just saying that’s the reality that my reason and rationality tells me that our faith is trying to move us beyond that entrenchment, that hardness of heart and remember that anger is one of the seven capital sins. It’s deadly and it’s lethal. One of the examinations of conscience I did, of course we priests go to reconciliation often too, and it had in quotation marks ‘anger with zeal can become dangerous’. So when the mere word undomcumented or the word immigrant becomes concrete in conversation it arouses all of this in the background and so what do we do with all of that? Do we carry it around? Do we ignore it? Are we to remain silent? Let somebody else speak up and take care of it? Maybe that moment in which we find ourselves is the moment to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ and the kingdom of God and maybe that is exactly what the Samaritan did who was not Jewish, who was regarded as unclean, but yet who helped the stranger, the victim, the one who was suffering? The question is asked, ‘and who is my neighbor?’ to the lawyer and the lawyer didn’t even say the Samaritan because he responded with compassion. He didn’t acknowledge his race, he simply said, ‘The one who responded with compassion.’ And then our Lord Jesus said, ‘Well then you go and do the same.’

There was a statement that was made in one of the documentaries that I was listening to several years ago on Judaism and the profound statement which I often share when we get into the understanding of what compassion is and it was said in a profound way, ‘It’s not Jewish if it’s not compassion.’  And we see that in our Lord’s response to the lawyer and the activity performed by the Samaritan and then that becomes I think a prophetic invitation to us today. ‘Who is my neighbor? Who is my neighbor?’ And reading between the lines in that parable, it’s not the one who lives next door to you in a geographical sense of the term or in the apartment or in the same college or speaks the same language or class or whatever it might be.  It’s the one who acts in right conduct towards the other wherever that other wherever that person may be in the world and that conduct can be defined by compassion. When the nails went into our Lord’s hands on the cross, he uttered a plea of forgiveness with compassion, ‘Father forgive them for they know not what they do.’ And many times we don’t know what we do, but we hope someone else is praying for us. Forgive them for they know not what they do and that opens the door into our heart which God wants for that love to come in and bring about a sense of order and reconciliation and reunification and forgiveness and letting go so that we can be compassionate people.  So who is my neighbor? Everyone I am called to conduct myself with compassion. That’s Everyone.  If the Father loves them, then we must be compassionate, so may we go and do the same.  In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, Amen.”