Dt 30:10-14; Ps 69; Col1:15-20; Lk 10:25-37
The Good Samaritan is demonstrating most of the Corporal Works of Mercy in the Gospel today. Feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, visit the sick…. He then trusts the innkeeper to take care of additional needs and he would cover the costs on his return.
This is a wonderful example of good people doing good things for helpless people. I’m sure most or all of us have been involved in a wide variety of such ventures during our lives. And quite likely we have been the beneficiary of lots of good care from others.
But what if there were 6 people lying on the road when the Samaritan returned, and then the next time he passed by there were 10 and then 50 and then 100? Would he have time to care for all and would the innkeeper be so willing to pitch in for additional needs?
As I was reflecting on these Scriptures earlier in the week, I had just heard a piece on the Salt Lake City news about a recent attempt in the ever-ongoing effort to house the homeless in Salt Lake. Vacant Ramada Inn opened and closed during about a 3-month period from January and April to house some of the most vulnerable during the winter months. The story is worth reading, but overall, they served 168 for this period. 22 were permanently housed, 43 went to emergency shelters, and 46 went back on the street. This all was funded by various private, state and federal programs to the tune of about $2.3 million. No immediate plan for a more permanent solution.
As I recall in the early-middle 80’s there was little or no presence of homeless in SLC. By the late eighties it was obvious that there was some type of a more complex social issue unfolding….. A night or two in a hotel and a good meal would not be enough. This of course is a common reality now in most cities.
There are many very valiant efforts and displays of the corporal works of mercy happening in the cities along with job training, dress for success, work study, affordable housing. Alongside these attempts is the reality that permanently employed people can hardly find good housing in many cities including Salt Lake. You know the issue. This seems to be so much more complicated than being a Good Samaritan and even the Corporal Works of Mercy. Like in the scriptures today there are actually some cultural impediments to doing the ‘right thing’.
Cultural issue in today’s gospel: Priest passed by ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE ROAD. Well, what do you expect from a priest, right? (wink, wink) Then a Levite, one from the priestly class or tribe also walked on by…on the other side. The priests couldn’t touch blood, especially if he was on his way to conduct services for who knows how many? Jesus was also addressing this cultural situation that seemed to preclude good care for the most vulnerable. Time for a reset…
Another story about the closing of a Trappist monastery in Huntsville UT came up this week. A permanent conservation easement on the Huntsville Monastery was recently granted through federal grants and cooperation between Land Conservancies and local donors. The land will now be used in perpetuity for sustainable farming or just natural landscapes. (Summit Land Conservancy has secured a federal grant of $8.8 million from Natural Resources Conservation Service’s (NRCS) Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP). The landowners have generously agreed to donate 58% of the appraised property value. The Conservancy, along with Ogden Valley Land Trust, launched a capital campaign to raise the remaining $300,000 needed from community members and individual donors). This was actually quite an accomplishment in an area just itching for a larger ski resort for the leisure set and more high-end housing in this beautiful mountain valley.
The monastery opened in 1948 and finally closed in 2017 for lack of vocations. Once had 80 monks and a complete self-sustaining farm on 1500 acres with their own water supply. They raised and produced chickens, eggs, dairy cows, beef cows, beehives and honey, made and sold their own bread before all the Nature’s Harvest-type retail outlets. They had a small bookstore and gift shop and also a very Spartan retreat house……
Monasteries were centuries old models of sustainable living… Not just an effective division of labor, but a lifestyle deliberately directed toward God with strict rules, but ones which freed the monks up to consider the higher thoughts and purposes of life. Everyone had everything they needed, were treated with dignity, and had all the ‘meaning’ they need for life. No one went hungry and no one lacked clothing or shelter. They were part of a hundred-year-old monastery in Kentucky that was part of a 1000-year-old order in France.
Started in 1948, many WWII veterans were included in the first monks who came to Huntsville. People were still stunned by the second global catastrophe within 50 years in Europe and most other continents. Something drastic had to change. Life without a closer adherence to God’s laws and plans was unthinkable. Humans were not faring well with their own plans.
Monasteries and their rather strict rule of life afford the monks significant time to pray and contemplate deeply. Some hours of the day were specifically allotted to this, but the whole daily routine was deliberately kept simpler so that one could consciously pray and reflect without unnecessary distractions and disruptions.
Humans need more time and ‘space’ to enter this type of prayer. See Praying from the Heart in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
2562 Where does prayer come from? Whether prayer is expressed in words or gestures, it is the whole man who prays. But in naming the source of prayer, Scripture speaks sometimes of the soul or the spirit, but most often of the heart (more than a thousand times). According to Scripture, it is the heart that prays. If our heart is far from God, the words of prayer are in vain.
2563 The heart is the dwelling-place where I am, where I live; according to the Semitic or Biblical expression, the heart is the place “to which I withdraw.” The heart is our hidden center, beyond the grasp of our reason and of others; only the Spirit of God can fathom the human heart and know it fully. The heart is the place of decision, deeper than our psychic drives. It is the place of truth, where we choose life or death. It is the place of encounter, because as image of God we live in relation: it is the place of covenant.
This definition gives us deeper insight to what the gospel today is commanding us: Love the Lord with your whole heart, being, strength and mind.
Monasteries can help model not just a type of prayer, but a whole ‘LIFE of prayer….
Celibacy practiced by the monks can also help us to better understand the larger principle of Chastity as explained by the Catechism….
2339 Chastity includes an apprenticeship in self-mastery which is a training in human freedom. The alternative is clear: either man governs his passions and finds peace, or he lets himself be dominated by them and becomes unhappy.126 “Man’s dignity therefore requires him to act out of conscious and free choice, as moved and drawn in a personal way from within, and not by blind impulses in himself or by mere external constraint. Man gains such dignity when, ridding himself of all slavery to the passions, he presses forward to his goal by freely choosing what is good and, by his diligence and skill, effectively secures for himself the means suited to this end.”127
2344 Chastity represents an eminently personal task; it also involves a cultural effort, for there is “an interdependence between personal betterment and the improvement of society.”131 Chastity presupposes respect for the rights of the person, in particular the right to receive information and an education that respect the moral and spiritual dimensions of human life.
There are many workable and developing models for sustainable living being developed and practiced in the secular world. I could train someone to pray from the heart if they were sufficiently motivated and even help them move toward self-mastery and inner freedom.
This is really the only answer to homelessness, but also unplanned pregnancies, school shooters, drug abuse and teen suicide… There are no bureaucratic solutions…………… They require real community and real communication.
American culture tends to be close to the opposite of radically interdependent. Like Israel, Acts of the Apostles, and even rural communities of the not-so-distant past, we can relearn a more sustainable model of interdependence and genuinely Christian living.
Today from Deuteronomy: “For this command that I enjoin on you today is not too mysterious and remote for you.” Mysterious to be sure because we are mysteries made in the image and likeness of a Mystery, but not too mysterious. It can be done with the right plan and structure.
I wonder if God is smart enough to figure it out… Give God a little more time and space. A LOT more time and space.
You can read more about praying from the heart and the larger implications of chastity as listed in today’s bulletin and pastoral messages.