15th Sun [C] 2010

Fr. Charles Irvin


Deuteronomy 30:10-14; Colossians 1:15-20; Luke 10:25-37

There was a scholar of the law who stood up to test him and said, “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus said to him, “What is written in the law? How do you read it?” He said in reply, You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” He replied to him, “You have answered correctly; do this and you will live.” But because he wished to justify himself, he said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

Because of the development of communications in our world of today — the Internet, I-pads, I-phones, and so forth — the concept of “neighbor” has a meaning today that it never had before. No longer does the term “neighbor” refer to people living next door or down the street. It now extends out into what we call “The Global Village.” What, then, is the meaning of today’s Gospel account about the Samaritan in that light? What does the word “responsibility” mean to us?

Early on in their development we strive to teach our children what it means to be responsible both in their behavior, in caring for their pets and toys, and in the way they treat others around them at home, at school, and in their neighborhoods. When they become maturing teenagers they seek responsible positions in their schools and in sports. They beseech their parents to allow them to do things that require trust, trust on the part of their parents and family members. They crave respect and so they seek positions and roles of responsibility.

Both children and teens, however, deny that they are responsible when things go wrong; especially when in their hearts and souls they know they have done something bad. This can lead to lying, denials not based on reality, and even to behavior patterns that keep them away from positions of responsibility and duties and that require responsibility. This sort of thing, as we all so sadly know, has developed into a fine art by our politicians. The finger-pointing blame game is not something played just by children and teens, it’s played out by adults in our newspapers and on our televisions news shows and talk shows. I can no longer watch the talking heads and the chattering classes on television for very long. I quickly become impatient with them.

It is well known that the numbers folks who avail themselves of the Sacrament of Penance is down. Some commentators blame Vatican II for this. Others attribute this falloff to modern-day ignorance sin. We are told that people no longer know what sin is. Others claim that modern Catholics no longer listen to the Church’s teachings about sin.

Perhaps there are elements of truth in those assertions. But is it not just as likely that we have all developed the fine art of denying responsibility that we find in our nation’s faulted leaders? Is it not something we have absorbed by observing the rhetoric and behavior found in our nation’s political leaders, in our corporation executives, and in our sports stars as well? I think so. In short, our culture as it surrounds us today is infested with denial — denial of sin as well as denial of responsibility.

The attitude, strategy, and technique found in the lawyer of today’s Gospel is found in hundreds of examples of people, people we expect to be responsible in our society that surrounds us these days.

If we pick apart the word “responsibility” we should see that it means “the ability to respond.” As Catholic Christians it carries within it a very important aspect we should see. Our God is a generous God, a caring and loving Father who brought us into life. He does not play dirty tricks on us. When he brought us into being He equipped us with gifts, gifts that we call talents and abilities. These talents and gifts give us the ability to respond to what we encounter in life, particularly to respond to others, men, women, and children that we encounter in life. God expects us to be His responsible sons and daughters, to be His responsible agents in revealing His kingdom here on earth as it is in heaven. The gifts and talents you have within you are not just for your own growth and development, they are given you so that you might respond to others around you, to responsibly care for and love them.

Our faith is not a gift so that we can save our own souls. Our faith and the gifts that we have because of it are given to us by our Father in heaven so that we can reveal His Christ and His Kingdom to all whom we meet, to all with whom we interact, to those countless neighbors we have in today’s global village.

The priest and the Levite failed to respond to God’s call to care, not because they lacked the ability to do so, but because they were too busy, too preoccupied. The Samaritan, however, one whom the Jews of those days despised, overcame whatever prejudices may have been at work inside him and responded in caring love to the victim in his plight. Every one of us here would, I am sure, want to be like that Samaritan.

However busy and preoccupied we may be we need to put times of reflection into our lives. These times must be intentional and deliberate, they won’t just happen by default. Our ability to respond is learned and cultivated in our families, in our homes, in those with whom we interact daily. Our ability to respond in caring love isn’t just a gift that drops down from the sky; it’s a gift God has planted deep within our hearts and souls, a gift that needs to be nurtured, a habitual state of mind that needs to be developed. Without times of prayer, without times of reflective awareness in God’s presence we will remain spiritual children, immature and self-centered.

Back in 1945 a new spiritual movement was established here in the United States, named “The Christophers.”  For their motto they adopted an ancient Chinese motto: “It is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.” Each one of us here can do that. Each one of us here can resolve each day to be faithful to their commitments, honor their promises, live responsibly, and cherish every God-given opportunity to give our caring love to those around us. It’s more than just a duty – it’s a responsibility we owe to ourselves, to others, and to God.

About Charles Irvin

Fr. Charlie was ordained a priest June 3, 1967 and has served as pastor of St. Mary Student Chapel in Ann Arbor, founded Holy Spirit parish in Hamburg, MI, served as pastor of St. Francis of Assisi parish in Ann Arbor and was pastor of St. Mary parish in Manchester, MI when he entered Senior Priest status in 2001. In 1999 he was appointed Founding Editor of FAITH Magazine which has grown into Faith Catholic Publishing located in Lansing, MI. He is now very active in his “retirement.”