Studying God’s Word

Deuteronomy 30:10-14
Colossians 1:15-20
Luke 10:25-37 [105C]
The readings for the Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time take up the topic of the Mosaic law. The oral and written traditions associated with the law helped Israel define itself and its relationship with God and neighbor.
The first reading from the Book of Deuteronomy is taken from the final speech that Moses delivers to the ancient Israelites at the end of their forty-year desert wanderings and just prior to their crossing over into the Promised Land (Dt 29:1—33:29). The Book of Deuteronomy is structured around three major speeches by Moses (Dt 1–4; 5–28; 29–33) that offer instructions and warnings for the new generation of Israelites about the embark upon a new life in the Promised Land. In today’s reading, Moses offers three pieces of advice to the Israelites. First, never forget to “heed the voice of the LORD, your God.” Second, “keep his commandments and statutes that are written in this book of the law.” And third, when you sin, “return to the LORD, your God, with all your heart and all your soul.” Moses encouraged the Israelites to understand that the law given to them by God was neither “too mysterious” nor too far “remote”; in fact, the law was “something very near” to all believers—“already in your mouth and in your hearts.” The central challenge, as Moses saw it, was for the Israelites to actually “carry it out”! 
The Gospel readings continue to be taken from Luke’s long travel narrative of Jesus’ final journey to Jerusalem. During the journey, Jesus speaks to three different groups of people—his disciples, the crowds, and his opponents (often the Jewish religious leaders, such as the Pharisees and the scribes). The opening words of today’s Gospel reading set the stage for another confrontation between Jesus and his opponents: “There was a scholar of the law who stood up to test him [Jesus].” The scholar asked Jesus, “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” On the surface, the question is deceptively simply to answer for a scholar of the Mosaic law. So Jesus turns the question back on the scholar with his retort, “What is written in the law? How do you read it?” Not surprisingly, Jesus and the scholar agree that love of God and neighbor is needed to inherit eternal life. Unable to trap Jesus with the first question, the scholar asks Jesus a follow-up question: “And who is my neighbor?” In response, Jesus tells the parable of the good Samaritan. The parable taught the scholar an important lesson about the Mosaic law: in addition to love of God and neighbor, to inherit eternal life, one must also show mercy, even to the least among us (like Samaritans). The Gospel ends with the test reversed on the scholar as Jesus concludes: “Go and do likewise.”
Over the next four Sundays, the second readings are taken from Paul’s Letter to the Colossians. This is one of the six “disputed” Pauline letters—scholars debate if Paul himself wrote this letter, or if it was produced after Paul’s death and written in his name and authority. Today’s reading is actually a Christological hymn that likely existed before the writing of Colossians, probably sung in the very early Christian liturgies. Ideas embedded in the hymn, such as Jesus being “the image of the invisible God” and Jesus as “the firstborn of all creation,” provides evidence of a high Christology very early on among the first generations of believers: in Christ, they saw the eternal God!

Dr. Daniel J. Scholz