Sunday, August 29, 2021

The hope of lawlessness

Sermon for the thirteenth Sunday after Trinity

A man lies bleeding and dying by the side of the road and the very people who should help him do not. The priest passes by. The Levite passes by. It is only the contemptible heretic who bothers to perform the act of humanity and lift this poor man out of the dirt.


Of course, the way that this is often presented is that the priest and Levite are utterly inconsiderate and practically inhuman in the way that they ignore the suffering of the poor man, but this isn't the point that's being made. Jesus tells us about the Good Samaritan as part of a discourse on Law, especially the Jewish Law which is quite extensive and not always interpreted correctly but rather for the convenience of those who impose that law.

The priest and the Levite show us that all that the Law can do is show us that something is wrong. The Law tells us that we have sinned. It convicts us of every little thought. Indeed, it is Jesus Himself Who shows us that the correct interpretation of the Law is more demanding than even the Scribes and Pharisees would want it. To burn with anger at someone is to murder them. To lust after someone is to commit adultery. Even the hidden things we think are judged by the Law. 

Ironically, it is the Law of the priest and Levite who pass over the dying man, that is not being applied fully. "Love thy neighbour" is there in the Old Testament before Jesus even opens His Holy mouth to explain it. For over a thousand years, "Love thy neighbour" has been present to Mankind from the mouth of God to Moses, yet the priest and the Levite pass it by.

So what's the point of living under laws? They clearly don't work!


That's not the point either. Laws do work at the task assigned to them. Laws allow human beings to know how to live together. What laws cannot do is make us better people. Every day we are scandalised and hurt by the news of people breaking the law across the world. Our inability to do anything about it is the same inability of the priest and the Levite. We can only do so much, but we cannot make the wounds of humanity heal by throwing the rule book at them. Two thousand years after meeting the Good Samaritan and we are no better.

The only way that Humanity can be made good is for someone to create goodness in us. We cannot create goodness. We need the Samaritan.


But the Samaritan is a heretic! Surely heretics lead us away from God.

This is true. Read the Church Fathers and you will see that there are so many heretics who try to distort what Our Lord Jesus tells us or what the Father has given us or what the Holy Ghost inspires. The Samaritan worships the same God as the priest and Levite, but his love is genuine and is not bound by the law. This Samaritan possesses a goodness which fulfills all the law, even "Love thy neighbour".

It is Jesus Who is the Samaritan for that is what the Scribes and Pharisees call Him for His apparent lawlessness. Rather, it is this Good Samaritan, this Lord Jesus who not only shows how the law is supposed to work but also shows how He fulfills it in Himself. It is He Who restores life to the dying. It is He Who pays the price for our care. It is He Who gives His Church the grace through the two pennies of Word and Sacrament to keep alive human beings broken by the robbery of the Devil. The law gives nothing. Grace gives it all.


We must prepare ourselves for the reality that this world is not going to get better. We have not become more moral people, nor have we become less. We have not become more enlightened through technological advances, nor have they obliterated the wisdom of the ancients. We are not getting worse but we are certainly not getting better.

Humanity always will be fallen until the Last Day when all will be raised in Christ. Until then, the Church has all that we need to keep ticking by until Christ returns. 

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