August 21, 2016
First Lesson: Ecclesiasticus 17: 1-15
Epistle: Galatians 3:16-22
Gospel: Luke 10: 23-37
Being the father of many children, I have had an opportunity to watch them grow and experience in each of them a common malady found in mankind: the “Not My Fault Syndrome.” It usually strikes at a fairly early stage of development. My six-year old has had problems with it for a few years now, but it usually stems from the fact that his eight-year old sister often prompts him to do things he probably would never have thought of on his own, such as running through the house with an open container filled with red Kool-Aid even after he’d been told not to do so. He’s a pretty good boy, and when confronted with his bad decisions, especially when predicated by his older sister’s influence, he will respond, “It’s not my fault.”
Now, he’s not the first person ever to say such things. I know I’ve said the same statement myself on many occasions throughout my life. My response to my boy and to the statement in general though is, “Does it matter?” Did we make the conscious choice to engage in the “bad” behavior? We are responsible for the actions we take.
In our first lesson, from Ecclesiasticus, we read that God has given knowledge, understanding, and the ability to think to mankind. It is not only a gift but a privilege and responsibility to know and think. In our Epistle, we read that God provided to Man a law which by itself gives Man the right ways to live in order to be holy and righteous, but Man cannot live up to its call. Even with the knowledge we’ve been given, Man is incapable of living a wholly righteous life.
In our Gospel, Jesus is confronted by a lawyer who asks how to obtain eternal life. Jesus responds by asking what the lawyer thinks about the meaning of the “Law”. The man turns back and states the two great commandments, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself.” Jesus congratulates the man for answering rightly. Then the lawyer apparently wants clarification (as lawyers are wont to do) and asks Jesus “Who is my neighbor?”
Jesus’ response to the lawyer is the famous “Good Samaritan” story. To recap: a most-liekly Jewish man is robbed and left for dead by thieves on his way from Jerusalem to Jericho. A priest and Levite both pass by him without doing more than looking at him. In many ways, we can all identify. We’ve seen problems where we didn’t want to get involved and just kept on walking. Here the priest and Levite didn’t want to risk getting ritually unclean because they had responsibilities and things to do. They didn’t need to be out of action for a day, a week, or a month until they could become ritually cleansed. So, they passed the man by. It was “their fault.”
However, the Samaritan – one of a group of people despised by the Jews – took the risk to his life and time, and stopped to minister to the man’s needs. He put him on his animal and brought him to an inn to be cared for while he went his way – paying for the services needed.
After Christ finished the parable, he asked the lawyer who had been a neighbor to the man. The response of “he that showed mercy on him” reminds us of the reluctance of the Jews to accept Samaritans as “people” and also informs us that the lawyer captured the intend of God’s command to love one’s neighbor.
It is easy to make excuses to avoid the hard things in life. We avoid dangers and fear and try to claim we had no other choice that we have no responsibility for how things just “worked out.” It’s “not our fault.”
But Scripture is clear, we have a responsibility to think, to know, to reason, and to do the right thing. We have no excuse. We are called to love our neighbors as ourselves. No qualification exists. It may be hard to do, but the command doesn’t change nor is its demand reduced because of circumstances. If we are going to be faithful to the call of God, we have no excuse. If we love God, we will love our neighbor as ourselves.
Will we then follow Christ? Will we love others even when it’s uncomfortable or unpleasant? When we don’t want to, will we still seek to honor God in the ways we behave? If we think we can simply say, “It’s not my fault”, we’re fooling ourselves.
Live for God. Let no excuse come between you and the call to love your neighbor.