A Dangerous Question
Updated: Oct 31, 2019
Scripture is full of questions – from God and from human beings. This weekend, our readings present us with more of these questions – and we also receive the answers to them. They are, in effect, self-contained lessons – that is, as long as we are students who pay attention!
First, Moses in speaking to the People of Israel, lets them know that their task is to remain faithful to the Law of the Covenant. This is the way to life – the fullness of life that God has promised them. As the great teacher of the Israelites, Moses tells them that certain questions are unnecessary, because they already know the answers:
“Who will go up in the sky to get it for us and tell us of it, that we may carry it out?” or “Who will cross the sea to get it for us and tell us of it, that we may carry it out?”
They don’t need to ask those questions because Moses gives them the answers – in fact, as he tells them, the answers should be obvious to the people who had walked with him and the Lord since Egypt:
“It is something very near to you, already in your mouths and in your hearts; you have only to carry it out.”
Moses’ point is that we need not go to the furthest ends of the earth to discover our purpose, or God’s plan in our lives; we need not delve too deep into mysterious things to know the will of God. It is something that is so much a part of us that knowing ourselves is all it takes to find out what we ought to do.
Ah, but there it gets complicated, doesn’t it?
Too often, we think that obvious answers are by that very fact naïve. “Real” knowledge of God must come from an arduous journey or at least serious effort. It can’t be as easy as Moses puts it.
But it is.
So too for Jesus.
He has another man come up to him with a question:
“What must I do to inherit eternal life?”
Jesus responds with another question:
“What is written in the Law?”
That’s an easy question! Third grade religious ed, at best.
Then, the man asks another question – a dangerous question:
“And who is my neighbor?”
Cue the parable of the Good Samarian. Jesus’ tale of a poor man who is ignored by so-called “religious” people but served by an outsider, a Samaritan. Christ poses another question of His own:
“Which of these three, in your opinion, was neighbor to the robbers’ victim?”
Again, the answer is obvious – but also dangerous. Now – now that he knows what the right thing to do is – he must go and do likewise. What Jesus does here is expand on that Law and show us who our neighbor truly is. It is anyone in need of compassion and love; anyone in need of God. It’s all of us.
Today, we live in a big world – much bigger than that of Jesus. We have spread to and explored every corner of our planet. There are over seven billion human beings on earth. And, based on what Jesus is teaching today, every one of them is our neighbor.
We cannot sacrifice our faith and the action that must flow from it for the sake of our own comfort and ease. When people hurt, we hurt; when one person is discriminated against, we are discriminated against; when one is imprisoned, we are imprisoned; when one suffers, we suffer.
We cannot remain numb to the need of our brothers and sisters – our neighbors. It might seem naïve to want to help them all, but this is exactly what we are called to do – and deep down, we know that it is the right thing – it is what God has written on our hearts.
So, who is our neighbor?
Answer that question, and then you will know what to do.