Homily for the Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C – Sea Sunday (9 & 10/7/22)

posted 11 Jul 2022, 01:57 by Parish Office

Christianity is a pretty demanding religion. It doesn’t do things by halves. We are to love God above all else, with every fibre of our being, and part of our love of God is that we also love our neighbour. Elsewhere, in the Gospels, we are asked to see Jesus in everyone, because when Our Lord speaks about the final judgement, what we did (or didn’t do) to others, we did (or didn’t do) to Him. And the definition of neighbour is a broad one – it’s not just the person living next door to us, or the people that we know really well at school or at work, or just family. It’s everyone. It even includes our enemies.

That’s part of the shock of the parable: Jews and Samaritans were enemies. At the end, when Christ asks the lawyer which person proved to be a neighbour, the lawyer couldn’t bring himself to say the word “Samaritan”, so he just says, “The one, who took pity on him”. The lawyer probably also realises the demands of loving neighbours, and so he wants to have to be kind to as few of them as possible. For us, there are no limits – everyone is a neighbour.

Why did the priest and the Levite walk on by the other side? Perhaps they were afraid of incurring ritual impurity by touching a dead body, if he was dead. And maybe also they were concerned about the potential inconvenience, so they rationalised that he was probably dead anyway, so it’s best not to get involved and just keep on walking. Imagine you were the man half-dead, and perhaps you had great respect and esteem for priests and Levites. You looked up to them, and were relieved to see one of them walking down the road towards you. What pain and disappointment it might have caused you to see them just walking on and ignoring you; and perhaps you would have been too injured and beaten-up in order to call for help. And then what of your surprise and relief when the Samaritan came to help. Actions speak louder than words; our faith is to be more than just nice words – it has to be real and active.

I mentioned earlier that the love of neighbour is a sub-department, if you like, of the love of God. The love of God is supposed to be everything in our lives, and it should be our love of God that inspires our love of neighbour. Our love for God therefore should be greater than our love for our neighbour. It doesn’t mean we can neglect others in need and use God as an excuse, though; if you were on your way to Mass and you ran someone over with your car, you need

to stop and see to the person you ran over – you can’t just keep on driving because you don’t want to be late for Mass.

We also see in the Gospel a beautiful love of neighbour shown by Our Lord. The lawyer asked a question “to disconcert Jesus”, to ask Him a difficult question to make Him sweat and produce and answer that he could pull apart later on. But Our Lord treats it as a genuine question, and produced a beautiful parable out of it.

So, yes, we are called to love our neighbour, and there are fourteen “works of mercy” that the Church has identified we should practise. They are not things that we are asked to do as a matter of mere justice, but as mercy, going beyond the demands of strict justice. The seven spiritual works of mercy are: to convert the sinner, to instruct the ignorant, to counsel the doubtful, to comfort the sorrowful, to bear wrongs patiently, to forgive injuries, and to pray for the living and the dead. The seven corporal works of mercy, with the word “corporal” referring to the body, corpus in Latin, are as follows: to feed the hungry, to give drink to the thirsty, to clothe the naked, to shelter the homeless, to visit the sick, to visit the imprisoned, and to bury the dead.

Today you have the chance to perform a work of mercy for seafarers. They have to work many miles from home and not see their families for the majority of the year; the work and the conditions can be demanding. Many are still being denied the right to leave their ships for even a short break away from the relentless noise and pressure onboard.

Today our second collection is for Stella Maris, which is the maritime agency of the Catholic Church. Its chaplains provide practical help and pastoral care to those working on ships, whether it’s giving information on where the shops are when they dock, where the nearest church is, or providing SIM cards so they can phone home. Being an island nation, our country is highly dependent on their work for both imports and exports, and seafarers have spiritual needs too. So please consider giving your two denarii as you leave the church today.

We are called to love of God above all else and to love our neighbour. It’s a very demanding, but also a particularly fruitful, combination.