Moses said to the people: "If only you would heed the voice of the Lord, your God, and keep his commandments and statutes that are written in this book of the law, when you return to the Lord, your God, with all your heart and all your soul.
"For this command that I enjoin on you today is not too mysterious and remote for you. It is not up in the sky, that you should say, "Who will go up in the sky to get it for us and tell us of it, that we may carry it out?" Nor is it across the sea that you should say, "Who will cross the sea to get it for us and tell us of it, that we may carry it out?" No, it is something very near to you, already in your mouths and in your hearts; you have only to carry it out."(P) The word of the Lord.
I pray to you, O Lord, for the time of your favor, O God! In your great kindness answer me with your constant help. Answer me, O Lord, for bounteous is your kindness: in your great mercy turn toward me. (R)
I am afflicted and in pain; let your saving help, O God, protect me. I will praise the name of God in song, and I will glorify him with thanksgiving. (R)
"See, you lowly ones, and be glad; you who seek God, may your hearts revive! For the Lord hears the poor, and his own who are in bonds he spurns not." (R)
For God will save Zion and rebuild the cities of Judah. The descendants of his servants shall inherit it, and those who love his name shall inhabit it. (R)
Christ Jesus is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For in him were created all things in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers; all things were created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things he himself might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile all things for him, making peace by the blood of his cross through him, whether those on earth or those in heaven.(P) The word of the Lord.
There was a scholar of the law who stood up to test Jesus 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?" Jesus replied, "A man fell victim to robbers as he went down from Jerusalem to Jericho. They stripped and beat him and went off leaving him half-dead. A priest happened to be going down that road, but when he saw him, he passed by on the opposite side. Likewise a Levite came to the place, and when he saw him, he passed by on the opposite side. But a Samaritan traveler who came upon him was moved with compassion at the sight. He approached the victim, poured oil and wine over his wounds and bandaged them. Then he lifted him up on his own animal, took him to an inn, and cared for him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper with the instruction, "Take care of him. If you spend more than what I have given you, I shall repay you on my way back." Which of these three, in your opinion, was neighbor to the robbers' victim?" He answered, "The one who treated him with mercy." Jesus said to him, "Go and do likewise."(P) The Gospel of the Lord.
A man who had bought a video game without an instruction manual phones the shop and tells the salesman about it. He says, "Can I bring it back and exchange it for another game that has a manual?" The salesman replies, "Of course, Sir, just bring in both the game and the receipt." Half an hour later when the man arrived at the shop the salesman says, "Sir, I've got the game ready for you. All I need is the receipt"
"Receipt?" says the man, with a look of horror and then puzzlement on his face, "I lost the receipt. Can you do it without it?" The salesman says, "No, I am sorry. I very specifically told you to bring it." The man pleads with the salesman, "Look, I just drove across town to get here to get the manual from you guys because you didn't give it to me when I bought the game!" The salesman insists, "There's nothing I can do without the receipt, Sir."
"Well", the man says pointing to the new game the salesman had pulled out for him, "Can't you just open that one and give me the manual from there?" The salesman apologizes, "No Sir. I can't do that. The man begs him, "Look my friend, just give it to me, your boss doesn't have to know!" The manager who has been listening to their conversation sighs and calmly says, "Sir, Please go home. Be a man. Real men don't need instructions and moreover it is very simple. Learn the game without having to read the manual first.
We hear a similar instruction in today's scripture readings. God's chosen people or faithful followers of Christ require no special instruction on God's law because it has already been revealed to them in many ways. Today's first reading is from the Book of Deuteronomy. It is the fifth Book of the Hebrew Bible known as the Jewish Torah. The Book consists of three speeches delivered to the Israelites by Moses on the plains of (a place called) Moab, shortly before they entered the Promised Land. Today's text is taken from one of those speeches.
Deuteronomy means a copy of the divine law or second law. In other words, the Book is partly a repetition of the Law found in the Book of Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers. Traditionally it is believed that Moses reviewed the old law during the last days of his life and soon after which, he died in the fortieth year following the Exodus from Egypt. Moses, when passing the authority over to Joshua who became the leader of the tribes of Israel after him, called on the new generation of Israelites to ratify the covenant between God and them. He exhorted them to be faithful to the Law which God had given them on Mount Sinai and during their wanderings in the desert. He warned them that only if they returned to their God, and kept His commandments and statutes would He make them prosper once again. However, their observance of God's Law must not be a merely external one but also internal. He called on them to return to their God with all their heart and with all their soul.
Moses also told them that God's Law is simple, clear and observable and, they could not plead ignorance of its existence, nor its observance because the Law had already been given to them. He says, "It is not up in the sky nor across the sea, but it is something very near to you, already in your mouths and in your hearts; you have only to carry it out." In other words, Moses reminded them that it is not something hidden from them. It is not something which they cannot understand. It is not beyond their reach. And it is not hard for them to know and do what God's Law requires of them. God's law has clearly and fully been revealed to them. They do not have to make long journeys nor big sacrifices to obtain it. They do not have to ask others to teach them the Law of God.
What is the message for us?
First of all, we must love and seek the Law of God before everything else and everyone else. We must delight in the Law of God. We must truly love and obey the Law of God with all our mind, with all our heart and with all our soul. Therefore, despite being occupied with the daily necessities of life, let us remember and keep the Sabbath day holy. Let us gladly participate in the praise and worship of our Lord with His Body, the church. Let us joyfully participate in listening to the Liturgy of the Word and, receive the Body and Blood of Christ in commemoration of our Lord's Last Supper.
Second, many of us tend to treat the Law of God or the Ten Commandments as something burdensome and outdated and too hard to follow. We ridicule and mock people who remind us of God's law. But upon reflection we discover that the ancient law of God is as fresh as ever and it teaches us something practical for our daily life. For instance, "You shall respect your father and mother. You shall not kill. You shall not steal. You shall not be envious of your neighbors and their possessions." These laws make up a kind of manual from God to us.
Third, often many of us claim ignorance or lack of understanding or human weakness for failing to follow God's law. But, as Moses says, God has made it clear for all to see and understand what He wants from us. We know it already and we know in our innermost being that these commandments are essential for our well-being, peace and joy.
Fourth, knowing these commandments and respecting them is of no value. They must be put into practice daily. Moses says, "You have only to carry it out." In the same way, Jesus tells the scholar who approaches him with the question, "What must I do to inherit eternal life?" Jesus asks him to quote the scriptures. He says, "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." Jesus replies, "You have answered correctly; do this and you will live."
Fifth we are reminded that we should not receive the grace of God in vain. As God's special creation, we, human beings, are gifted with the knowledge of good and evil. We must use the special grace of God to love Him and our neighbors, and resist all kinds of evil. As Christians we are in an even better position than the people of Israel, for we have been given the grace of Christ.
Finally, let us pray that we receive Jesus and His Word in faith and that He may give us the power to live the kind of life we are called to live.(P) Amen.
God Bless You!