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15th Sunday of the Year - Mucking In, Not Mucking Up

Sunday, July 11, 2010

"Cleanliness is next to godliness" is an ancient proverb but we can take it to an extreme. There is a virtue in being willing to get our hands dirty from time to time, as we see in the parable Jesus tells in today’s Gospel. The Samaritan is happy to muddy himself by reaching across cultural and religious boundaries and help his fellow man.

In many ways the inaction of the priest and the Levite in today’s Gospel is comparable to out attitudes in modern day western society. The inaction of the Levite and the priest is partially based upon the Jewish Laws of purification. We also live in a society which does not want to get its hands dirty, either literally or figuratively. People want a quiet life without any fuss. Today’s health and safety regulations, fear of litigation and the loss of community, have allowed a culture of passivity to grow up within society. Generation X has been succeeded by Generation Y-“Generation whY Bother?” People do not want to intervene or stick their necks out. People do not want to rock the boat. This attitude is in conflict with the Christian life. The genteel image of ‘Jesus, meek and mild” does not mean that Christians are limp saps who go with the flow. We are called to love God with all our heart, all our soul and all our strength, and to love our neighbour. We can not stand by the water dipping in our toe; we have to dive fully into life with Christ. This means that have to be prepared to get our hands dirty. We have to be prepared to roll up our sleeves and live our faith. We can not be lukewarm and be passively Christian. We can not just be along for the ride.

God is not a passive and silent observer. He does not keep to Himself. He is involved in creation in the fullest sense. He is not afraid to get stuck in. The imagery in the Book of Genesis, where God forms man from dust, is a marvellous one. It shows God getting stuck in and literally getting his hands dirty in the act of creation, but God’s intervention does not stop at creation. In the person of Jesus we see God's greatest intervention in creation. In the incarnation God takes on human flesh. God does not stand afar off but comes right amongst the mess that was humanity. Through his death and resurrection Jesus does the dirty work for us. He takes all the sin of the world and all the failings of humanity upon himself on the cross. He is not afraid to get his hands dirty to save us.

Jesus tell us to be “perfect as the Father is perfect” and we must imitate his example. As Christians we must not shy away from the struggles and messiness of life. We can not be isolated from the world. We must not only engage with it but be in it. We must be unafraid to speak out when there is injustice, whatever the consequences of our protest. We must be willing to contribute our time and effort to bring the love of God to all our neighbours. All of us must be prepared to be a Good Samaritan and be ready to get our hands dirty.

This reflection originally appeared in the newsletter of the Priory Church of Our Lady of the Rosary & St. Dominic, London, on the 11th July 2010. Available here

Mark Davoren


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