Last Wednesday I commenced my new course of second line chemo. It consists of different versions of the previous first line therapy that have kept the cancer at bay for the last 6 years but are now ineffective. The doctors will monitor my blood results to ensure that the new treatment will put the cancer back in remission. The new medication consists of a daily tablet to be taken for 3 weeks out of 4 along with another drug given as a weekly drip in the clinic for 3 weeks out of 4; this is accompanied by a (dose!) of steroids. The fourth week is free of treatment to give the body a chance to recover.
A week ago last Friday I mentioned a seminary friend Fr Eamon Murray who is now serving in Pretoria, South Africa. There are some photos of a mission station where he is. Another experience of the universal Catholic Church. (Fr Eamon is the priest on the left hand side.)
Here is my homily for today.
Usually having lots of information is a good thing. It allows us for example to make a more informed decision about our options. The downside of lots of information is that in the midst of all the facts and figures, it may be difficult to pinpoint that which is more important from that which is less important.
We could spend a whole lifetime meditating on the rich treasures of our beautiful Catholic Christian heritage as found in places like the Bible, Catechism of the Catholic Church, lives of the saints, etc. But in a nutshell what is the core of our Christian faith about? In the question posed to Jesus today in the gospel: WHAT MUST I DO TO INHERIT ETERNAL LIFE? This is the all important matter.
Jesus supplies the all important answer to the all important question. It is the Two Great Commandments: Love God with your whole heart, soul, mind and strength; and love your neighbour as yourself. It is so simple and that is what we want.
But what is saving, Christian love? Is it the same thing as the Beatles were singing about in the 1960s: “Love is all you need”? The two types of love in question are probably quite different when we carefully examine them.
Christian love begins with the amazing declaration of St John’s first letter which says “God is love.” (1 John 4:16).The whole order of Creation shows forth God’s love as well as his truth, beauty and goodness.
In today’s second reading St Paul says that Jesus is the image of the unseen God. When we meditate on the life of Jesus through reading the Bible, praying the Rosary, Stations of the Cross, when we reflect on the Crucifix or the Divine Mercy / Sacred Heart images, we come into direct contact with perfect, divine love. We see God’s mighty love for us and are prompted to respond with gratitude to the great God who first loved us.
The early Church saw the Parable of the Good Samaritan as an account of Jesus’ saving mission to us – his life, death and Resurrection. The traveller who was robbed, beaten up, left half-dead is fallen humanity. This happened as a result of Original Sin when our first parents disobeyed God and turned away from his friendship and shipwrecked themselves. Examples of fallen humanity abound every time we take in the news, when we see what goes on in our local communities. We even see it within ourselves when we become aware of petty and selfish inclinations and behaviour.
The robber is the Devil which tempted us away from God and his goodness in the first place.
The two fellow travellers stand for man-made cultures and religions who have no power to truly save fallen humanity. A prime example is Communism which promised so much in theory but has only added to the sum total of humanity’s suffering.
Jesus is the Good Samaritan who is moved with compassion for the plight of the half-dead traveller – ourselves. The oil and wine that he puts in our wounds stand for the sacraments of strengthening and healing. We think especially of the holy Eucharist, sacrament of the sick and of course Confession which reconciles us to God after we sin.
The INN is the Church, a place of refuge and safety. In today’s world which presents such a skewed picture of the Church, it is important to acknowledge the immense amount of charitable work done by the Church over the last 2000 years – people like Mother Teresa, Nano Nagle, St John Bosco to name but a few. In many poorer nations today the Church’s charitable outreach is the only one that caters for the less well off.
So in this way, the parable of the Good Samaritan is an account of God’s saving love for us.
All of this should prompt us to respond to God with adoration, praise and gratitude. It should move us as well to be Good Samaritans to those who need our help by performing the spiritual and corporal works of mercy. In today secular age, I believe it is a spiritual work of mercy to give the witness of a committed Catholic way of life: namely that we pray daily, attend Holy Mass on Sundays and Holy Days, and live by the Ten Commandments. Opportunities to practice the corporal works of mercy can be found in the Legion of Mary, Saint Vincent DePaul Society and the Pro-Life Movement.
So in summary: As we continue or pilgrimage of faith this week, we should avail of every opportunity to love God and Neighbour.