We envy the apostles and disciples of Christ. Although we have the same privileges they had, we would love to have seen the things which they saw and heard the things which they heard. But we, ourselves, are to be envied, because we have so many privileges which others do not enjoy. We are born of Catholic parents, brought up with care in the Christian religion, with priests enough to teach us, confessors in plenty to guide us in the path of virtue: we cannot do otherwise than be good unless we are very careless. If we have not the happiness of seeing Jesus walking about and holding converse with the crowd, have we not Jesus with us in the Blessed Sacrament? We can walk and hold communion with Him every time we receive holy communion. Therefore we might be called blessed. Do we, however, make use of these occasions? Are we grateful for these advantages? Do we ever return thanks for them? Do we visit Our Lord in His church where He is really present in the Blessed Eucharist? You love Jesus, you like to be in His company. Why are you not more frequently in church, especially when public honor is given to the Blessed Sacrament? Are you among the first that press around His altar to do Him homage? God has been so good to us that we do not appreciate this great gift of faith. We lose our faith from the fact of the too great generosity of God. Hence it is that many do not believe that Christ is the light of the world. The wisdom of God is a stumbling-block to many. Let us return to the consideration of the words of the Gospel:
"A certain lawyer stood up tempting Him, and saying, Master, what must I do to possess eternal life?'' My dear young friends, do you ever ask yourselves this question? Did you ever ask any one to direct you in this important affair "to possess eternal life"? It is the great aim of our life to get the possession of heaven. Has your spiritual director, your confessor, ever been consulted on the means of getting to heaven? I am afraid you have not consulted him, that you think it too irksome to speak of such things to anybody, that no one has a right to direct you in the way you should walk. I am sure that when your superiors wish to give you advice and direction, you become impudent and turn saucily upon them. Your confessor wants you to give up drink, which you are beginning to taste and to like; what a struggle there is for your self-indulgence; how you insist on the most favorable terms! Your confessor advises you to give up certain company; those who make up that company will tell you you are a fool to listen to such advice, and may thus make his advice useless. The young are apt to be headstrong, and to be inclined to the gratification of their passions and to carrying out their desires.
What must you do to keep yourselves good? What must you do to possess eternal life? To this serious question Our Lord gives the following answer, "What is written in the law? how readest thou?" The man answered, " Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with all thy strength and with all thy mind." Our Lord said, " Thou hast answered right; this do, and thou shalt live." Here is a very plain declaration of what we must do, my dear young friends, to possess eternal life: let me repeat it in a loud voice, " Love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with all thy strength and with all thy mind." What a grand precept this is! Is God loved in this way by all our young people? Are there not many who love their passions more? They love games, their companions, the miserable creatures of this world more; they do not love God, they live without ever thinking of God. Miserable people are they, who by their works show they know not God, much less love Him. St. Catherine of Genoa used to say, " What a horrible misfortune it is not to love God! hell of hells, to be without the love of God!" To love God we must observe His holy law not only one law, but all His laws; never offend Him, and hate sin. You must do His holy will. But to love God, you must know Him. Who is God? He is your Creator, who has loved you from all eternity; before you were brought into the world He knew you, and loved you; He had your ideal in His omnipotent mind, and then brought you out of nothingness by creation.
He is therefore your Lord and Master; were it not for Him, you would not exist. For you. He created this beautiful world, with all that is in it, that renders it so charming hills, woods, green fields, rivers and oceans. For you He created the universe, and set it around this world and bespangled it with stars. All is for your service and all is maintained for you. Does not a God of such infinite goodness merit all your love? Not only is God our Creator, He is also our most loving Redeemer, who came from heaven for our love, who has snatched us from the jaws of hell, who has brought the light of truth to us, who sat in darkness and in the shadow of death; who instituted the Sacraments, who shed His sacred blood for us, who opened for us the gates of paradise, and who now awaits us there to become sharers in His eternal glories. Does not so loving a Redeemer merit our love? Should you not from your tenderest years begin to love and serve so good a Master? Love Him, then, with your whole soul and with all your strength. Does not the whole world which He created show His goodness and call on you to love Him? St. Philip Neri says, "Lord, you being so worthy of my love, so dear, so good, why did you give me but one heart to love you, and a heart that is so small?" The lawyer continued to question Our Lord, "And who is my neighbor? "Our Lord in answer told of an incident which happened in His day. A poor man fell among robbers and was nearly killed. Several people passed by, among them a Levite and a priest, but they went on, without manifesting any signs of sympathy. But there came by a good Samaritan, who placed the poor man on his beast and took him to a place of safety, where he could be cared for. Which among these, asked Our Saviour, acted in a charitable way? The doctor of the law answered. He, of course, who showed mercy." "Go," said Our Lord, "and do thou in like manner."
There are several important points to be discussed in this story, especially the one of the love which we should show our neighbor: not only in sentiment, but by actual works of mercy. Another point is that this poor man is another figure of sinful mankind. It is certain that the case is a counterpart of the spiritual life; the man that fell among the robbers, who left him half dead on the roadside, is the sinner. When you fall into sin, ah, then you may be sure you have fallen into the hands of the devil, who has come upon you like a robber. And to what a condition has he reduced you! He has robbed you of your precious garment of innocence, which made you so beautiful in the sight of God; he has robbed you of all the treasures you have gathered in your life and which you were carrying with you to heaven. But this is not all: look at the poor soul full of wounds, with barely a little faith left in her, the life of charity nearly extinct, there she lies stretched by the roadside, with no one to help her. Can you imagine a condition more helpless and unfortunate than this? Not able to help yourself and dying for want of care! This dreadful mishap comes to many a youth; he goes along the road happy, full of vigor, but sin has struck him down; his soul is nearly dead, and he cannot move; he is carried along or dragged to the gates of hell, where all at once he awakes with the wails of the damned sounding in his ears. Be on your guard, my good friends, so as not to fall into the hands of those robbers, who will so despoil you that not a vestige of your old goodness will remain. Pray now that if it happen that sin should kill your soul, that Jesus, the good Samaritan, may look for you, pick you up kindly, place you on His beast of burden, and carry you to an inn, where you may recover under His loving care. Jesus is always waiting for such opportunities of succoring poor fallen humanity.
Source: Sermons for Children's Masses, Imprimatur 1900