Sunday, July 31, 2016

Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time - August 7, 2016

First Reading Commentary
To understand this Reading more fully, it would be helpful to go back to the Book of Exodus and peruse the passages found in Chapter 4, verses 22-31, and Chapter 11 verse 4 all the way through verse 14 of chapter 12. 
While this Reading basically reflects on these verses from Exodus, Wisdom is certainly not to be outdone in providing information as to what these events mean for the future of God's people.  These events, although very real in the lives of the Israelites, were as Wisdom teaches us, symbolic - leading to a divine reality. 
It was at night that the Israelites watched and waited for the Lord to pass over their houses as their doorposts were sprinkled with the blood of slaughtered lambs.  The prophets watched and waited for the coming of the Lamb of God Whose Blood would save His people.  Those passages in Exodus tell us that not only were the Israelites required to slaughter the lamb, but they also had to eat it.  The reality of this symbolism came to us at the Last Supper and has continued at each and every Mass in which we consume the Lamb of God's precious Body and Blood. 
The prophets of the Old Testament watched and waited for the reality or fulfillment.  With all this mentioning of symbolism, however, it's important to note that it is only intended as a reference to the rituals of the Old Covenant that would find their fulfillment in the New and Everlasting Covenant.  As God's people crossed over from the Old Covenant to the New, there was no rupture.  For example, in the Old Covenant ritual of sacrificing a lamb and then eating the lamb, the people of Israel did not eat a symbol of the lamb that was sacrificed, but rather they ate the actual lamb.  In the New and Everlasting Covenant, Christ is our sacrificial Lamb; and what we partake of at Communion is not a symbol of the Lamb but instead the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of the Sacrificial Lamb Who is Jesus Christ. 
Keeping watch is still very much a part of our Christian tradition.  While the prophets watched for the coming of the Messiah, today monastics, hermits, cenobites and those who adore our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament in the wee hours of the night keep vigil, waiting and longing for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.  Our Lord asks the question: "When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on earth?" (Luke 18:8).  Our Savior continues: "Watch, therefore; you know not when the Lord of the house is coming.  May He not come suddenly and find you sleeping" (Mark 13:35-36). 
It's interesting to parallel the first born of the Egyptians being killed with the events at the Garden of Gethsemane leading to Christ's sacrificial act of love.  Jesus asked His apostles to keep watch, but they fell asleep.  Unlike the Israelites of the Exodus story, the apostles were unable to keep vigil.  But in this case it was not the first born of the Egyptians to lose their lives so that the Israelites may be freed from their bondage; instead it was the first born of God Who would be sacrificed so that we may be freed from the bondage of sin and death.  But it is the mysterious ways of the Lord that challenge our broken nature.  The death of the first born among the Egyptians satisfies a very human desire and longing for revenge – the bad guys got what they deserved.  With the Crucifixion of Jesus, however, the good Guy is slaughtered so that the heirs of the fall from paradise may have life eternal.  In the unseen world, however, the ultimate bad guy, the devil, really had to take it on the chin because Christ broke the stranglehold of death. 
While being awake and at prayer in the middle of the night is not realistic for most of us, we can still keep watch by fixing our eyes on heaven and staying focused on eternal riches.  If our treasure is in heaven, there also will our hearts be (cf. Matthew 6:21).
Second Reading Commentary
For the human will, faith is the glue that holds everything together.  No matter what happens to us in this life, our faith holds firm the belief of a revealed but absent end as well as a future with a new beginning in eternity. 
There are some biblical examples of faith in this Reading.  It is faith that the saints held fast to that has led us to honor them.  Let's not forget the Virgin Mary's leap of faith that brought about the radical change in her life which made her the Mother of God.  Her leap of faith also changed our lives radically.  "Yes" or "so be it" are appropriate synonyms for "faith".  Our Lady said yes; Noah said yes; Abraham said yes; Moses said yes; Peter said yes; Paul said yes; all the saints said yes.  They all said: Yes, I will do what You ask of me Lord.  Yes I believe in You and I trust You; so be it, so be it, so be it! 
This Reading reveals that Abraham was willing to sacrifice his son Isaac - even though God promised descendants from Isaac - because Abraham was committed to a personal faith that believed God would somehow be able to raise Isaac from the dead.  Therefore, Abraham said yes.  He didn't try to apply logic and figure out how descendants could possibly come from Isaac if he was about to be sacrificed.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that Abraham, because he was strong in faith, became the father of all who believe (cf. CCC 146).  The Catechism goes on to add that from God we have received the grace of believing in His Son Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith (cf. CCC 147). 
Faith is a gift from the Almighty.  It is faith that leads us to our church doors on Sunday.  Sometimes it's good to sit back and reflect on the week that just passed.  Consider the times you exercised your faith.  It's good to do this because so often we use our faith without realizing it.  What did you do this past week that required faith?  What decisions did you make that required a leap of faith?  When you wake up, for example, you have no idea what surprises are waiting for you that could disrupt what you already had planned for that day.  Without even realizing it, our day begins with us exercising our faith because we're confident that God will get us through the bumpy road that may lie ahead.  We depend on God for so many things and we trust in Him for so many things and yet it is not often in our recollections.  All the money in the world can't buy fruits and vegetables if God doesn't first command the seed to grow.  By faith this truth is known but seldom, if ever, acknowledged. 
In the Church's Night Prayer (Compline) we read from Psalm 4: "As soon as I lie down, I fall peacefully asleep, for You alone, O Lord, bring security to my dwelling" (Psalm 4:9).  The thought of not being under God's watchful and loving Eyes is rarely ever considered – it doesn't really occupy the human mind unless one is faced with something that is life threatening. 
It is quite common in the Christian East to pray the "Jesus Prayer".  A simplified version of this is to pray the Name of "Jesus" through the rhythm of one's breathing pattern.  This not only thwarts off evil because of the powerful Name of Jesus but also is a reminder that God is responsible for each breath we take.  If the Almighty turned away His gaze from us for one millisecond, we would cease to exist.  Jesus, because He is God, is the only independent Being that has ever walked the earth.  In His Human Nature, however, He exercised dependency on the Father to teach us how much we need God. 
Gospel Commentary
The words "gird your loins" are familiar to the ancient East.  It was their practice to gird up their long garments when they were about to get down to business.  And so, what Jesus is saying here is to be ready for His return.  In other words, when He returns, will He find us in a state of grace, laboring for the Kingdom, or will He find us drunk, a metaphor for living according to one's own design and not accepting or living out the dignity of a child of God. 
Both Saint Gregory and Saint Thomas Aquinas explain the watches as such: The first watch is childhood, the beginning of our existence.  The second watch is adulthood, and the third watch is referring to old age. 
Realistically, being prepared for our Savior's Second Coming is only part of the story.  As a result of our own death, we could meet our Lord face-to-Face before His literal Second Coming.  And like the Second Coming, when our time of death will occur is a mystery; therefore, always being prepared is the key. 
The Catechism explains: "Everyone is called to enter the Kingdom.  First announced to the children of Israel, this Messianic Kingdom is intended to accept men of all nations.  To enter it, one must first accept Jesus' word.  This Kingdom shines out before men in the word, in the works and in the presence of Christ.  To welcome Jesus' word is to welcome the Kingdom itself.  The seed and beginning of the Kingdom are the little flock of those whom Jesus came to gather around Him, the flock whose Shepherd He is.  They form Jesus' true family.  He urges us to vigilance of the heart in communion with His own.  Vigilance is custody of the heart.  The Holy Spirit constantly seeks to awaken us to keep watch.  This petition takes on all its dramatic meaning in relation to the last temptation of our earthly battle; it asks for final perseverance" (CCC 543, 764, 2849). 
Saint Paul is a marvelous example of a heart that was formerly unprepared, and then after his conversion he used every ounce of his strength to prepare the hearts of others.  And after his conversion, he had many things happen to him that could easily have convinced him to give up the good fight.  Instead his lamp was always shining brightly, prepared to welcome his Master.  In his Second Letter to the Corinthians he writes: "We do not lose heart, because our inner being is renewed each day even though our body is being destroyed at the same time.  The present burden of our trial is light enough, and earns for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.  We do not fix our gaze on what is seen but on what is unseen.  What is seen is transitory; what is unseen lasts forever" (2 Corinthians 4:16-18). 
Saint Paul points out that the present burden of our trial is light enough; therefore, by fixing our gaze on the unseen we are not running away from the culture - instead we're bringing heaven's point of view to the culture.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time - July 31, 2016

First Reading Commentary
Qoheleth is the Hebrew name for Ecclesiastes.  The name has many meanings: One who conveys an assembly, member of an assembly, official speaker in an assembly, head of an assembly of wise men, preacher, debater, and the great collector of sayings.  The author is unknown although up until the nineteenth century it was believed to have been written by Solomon because Qoheleth is referred to in this book as King David's son.  There are social conditions mentioned in this book which are contrary to what is known about the Israelites in Solomon's day, therefore, Solomon's authorship is unlikely.  The date of this book is fixed somewhere around the close of the third century B.C. 
The word "Vanity" is translated as "a breath" or "a vapor" and "Vanity of vanities" is the Hebrew way of saying "the merest breath".  In order to comprehend the meaning of this Reading, it's important to note that at the time of this writing, the idea of an afterlife was not widely accepted or taught in the Hebrew creed.  The theology of the time was that the infinitely good God rewarded obedience to His laws with temporal goods and punished disobedience by denying or taking away temporal riches.  This theology is perplexing to Ecclesiastes or Qoheleth and is the general theme of the entire book. 
The rewarding of temporal gifts which reflect the teachings of that particular time in history led Qoheleth to believe that wealth, riches and the pleasures of this life were an inadequate reward for obedience to the Mosaic Law.  In the grand scheme of things the author felt that humanity's labor, the accumulation of wealth and living for the pleasures of this life, only to have it all come to a screeching halt because of death was unfulfilling and disappointing.
Second Reading Commentary
Saint Paul is referring to that mystical death and rising to a new life which occurs at Baptism when he writes, "If you were raised with Christ". 
At Mass during the Eucharistic Prayer the priest says: "Sursum corda - Lift up your hearts".  Saint Paul assures us that we are called to that constant lifting up of our hearts to our Lord, keeping our thoughts on what is above and not what is on earth until that day when we the members are joined with our Head in eternal glory. 
Review once again the parts that Paul refers to as earthly: immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire and greed.  We are not strangers to any of these things.  We are either guilty of these things ourselves or at least are unfortunate witnesses of such things in our culture.  In our present existence, we're all labeled in one way or another: Black, white, Hispanic, Republican, Democrat, Catholic, Protestant, Jew, Muslim, conservative, liberal, moderate, blue-collar, white-collar, and the list goes on and on.  While these labels may help to identify who we are, humanity's brokenness also makes them a source of division and prejudice.  Saint Paul exhorts us to put these things to death and focus on the new self, which is being renewed and transformed. 
In the end, when all is said and done, all of us will have only one label that really matters: "A child of God".  And surely it is more beneficial for us to make that the only label that really matters now.
Gospel Commentary
There are possibly two meanings to being "rich in what matters to God".  Most certainly it can be applied to storing up treasure in heaven, living one's life focused on eternal riches.  It could also be referring to how the riches or material goods of this life are handled.  In other words, are the abundances of this life hoarded because of greed or are they distributed to help those who are less fortunate?  Saint Ambrose says that the hands of the poor, the houses of widows, are storehouses that endure forever. 
In this Gospel, Jesus uses a parable which is a reminder that all the material wealth possessed in this life cannot add a single minute to our lives.  Jesus has the answer to Qoheleth's concerns in the First Reading: Yes there is indeed much more to life than the material rewards obtained; and there is without a doubt an afterlife. 
The message in the Gospel since beginning this "Journey Narrative" several weeks ago is to stay focused on heaven.  If heaven is to be our focus, then surely this life has inflicted all of us from time-to-time with attention deficit disorder.  It's that old battle of flesh versus spirit.  The flesh has a distinct advantage because it can behold its desires with the physical senses.  What the spirit desires is intangible and can seem elusive.  Exercising the spirit requires a certain denying of the senses.  For heaven to be our focus and desire, the physical senses cannot be permitted to dictate policy.  When we deny ourselves the influence of the senses, the eyes of faith see with confidence, for example, that what we behold is not bread - it is Jesus.  What we behold is not wine - it is Jesus.  This is why prayer is so important.  At prayer, the affairs of the spirit are in charge while the flesh takes on a role of a disruptor by means of distractions.  But through perseverance, the spirit grows in love for the Lord; and this growth renders the flesh less obtrusive.
Consider what happens whenever you go to the cinema to watch a movie.  You have to sit through all the previews of other films before you get to the feature film.  Whether the previews are good or bad, in reality your thoughts and desires are focused on the feature film.  Heaven and eternal life is our feature film.  While it is necessary to experience the previews of this life, it is much easier to bear its pains while also not being dependent upon its rewards when one's ultimate desire is the beatific vision.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time - July 24, 2016

First Reading Commentary
"The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah" is one that calls to heaven for vengeance.  Obviously the Lord does not really need to go down to Sodom and Gomorrah to see if their actions correspond to the cries for vengeance.  God is all-knowing and all-seeing.  It is done this way so that this exchange between Abraham and the Lord could occur.  This is a test for Abraham who has been called by God to be a father of nations. 

We're all tested many times in this life.  God allows these temptations not because He needs to see how we will respond - He already knows how we will respond.  It's more for our own benefit - an opportunity for us to be able to see for ourselves how we will respond.  It is these tests and temptations that help us to grow in the spiritual life.  Because of our fallen nature, however, pride and ego could get in the way and delude the mind and heart into believing that the pinnacle of spiritual growth has been reached or that there really is no need to grow more spiritually. 

A secular society such as our own might suggest that spirituality has little to do with real life, day-to-day activity.  But when considering the needs of the human body, for example, it doesn't make sense, nor is it healthy, to focus on quenching thirst but ignoring hunger.  Likewise, the human make-up of flesh and spirit for overall health requires that consideration is given to both.  The tests in life not only shed light on what areas need growth but also gives aid to the struggles with humility. 

Abraham who is to be a father of nations was able see for himself that he will be a concerned and loving father of nations, one who reaches out and cares for the safety of both the innocent and the guilty.  Abraham does not ask the Lord to spare all the innocent and wipe out the guilty.  Instead, he asks for the entire city to be spared even if only ten innocent people are to be found.  This points towards Christ's salvific act in which He willingly handed over His innocence to the guilty. 

God's affirmation to Abraham's request shows Abraham and us that we have been called to serve a merciful God.  For many of us, Abraham's line of questioning might be annoying.  It would seem more appropriate if he had asked God to spare the city for the sake of ten innocent people right from the start.  It does demonstrate, however, how patient our Lord is with human weakness and our own imperfect prayers. 

This Reading depicting God's mercy offers a level of comfort when attempting to comprehend the love He has for each and every one of us; and Jesus, the Word of God Incarnate, beyond a shadow of a doubt would still have come to offer Himself as a living Sacrifice even if only one of us were in need of His saving grace.

Second Reading Commentary
Saint Paul's message here is one of forgiveness.  He stresses that Christ brought us to life with Him, forgiving us of the transgressions that rendered us dead. 

"Obliterating the bond against us" - the Latin translates to mean: "Blotting out the handwriting of the decree which was against us".  "Handwriting" is meant to express a contract or law that legally binds us to something.  Paul is probably referring to the Mosaic Law which was unable to remove transgressions.  He also could be referring to the eternal death that humanity was sentenced to by the fall of Adam.  Whichever meaning applies here, the point is that Christ was able to take away its clutches from us by "nailing it to the Cross". 

Gospel Commentary
Saint Luke's version of the "Our Father" is shorter than we're accustomed to praying at Mass.  For liturgical purposes Saint Matthew's version is used.  All of us have been granted the privilege to call God "Father". 

The world's standards may judge humanity as individuals; that is, one's worth and effectiveness being greater than someone else's, but we're all equal in the gift of heavenly nobility. 

Saint John Chrysostom points out that "Our Father, Who art in heaven" is not meant to insinuate that heaven is the only place He can be found.  Jesus wants us to pray this way to keep our minds fixed on heaven.  Jesus is not saying that this prayer is the only prayer we literally need to pray, but there are intimations that all other prayers should be identifiable with the "Our Father".  That is to say, for example, if praying for a specific need, then it must be exactly that - a real need and not something that could be considered a luxury.  This way, it is harmonious with "give us this day our daily bread". 

The Greek text translates as "our daily bread" which supports the meaning of the necessities for this life.  The Latin, however, translates as "super-substantial bread" which could refer to the needs of this life but also seems to point to the Eucharist. 

In the "Hail Mary" we ask our Blessed Mother to "pray for us sinners" - all sinners.  This conforms to "forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us".  In our prayer to our Lady we add, "now and at the hour of our death".  Here, we are praying for the Queen of heaven's own perseverance in prayer. 

We are children of God.  Jesus says that we must become like little children (cf. Matthew 18:3).  If you've ever raised a child then you already know that no one is more persevering about getting what they want than a child. 

"Hallowed be Thy Name" is a reflection of how we conduct ourselves in this life.  Does our life reflect the holiness of almighty God or is it one of luke-warmness and indifference?  In a homily on the "Our Father", Saint John Chrysostom said: "Those who desire to arrive at the Kingdom of heaven must endeavor so to order their life and conversation, as if they were already conversing in heaven." 

The parable Jesus uses in this Gospel is found only in Saint Luke's Gospel.  Christ first teaches His disciples how to pray and then with the use of this parable, shows them the efficacy of prayer.  Jesus impresses upon us the need to persevere in prayer.  Our Lord would not want us to make requests if He wasn't prepared to give.  In all truthfulness He is more ready to give than we are to receive. 

Saint Cyril explains that after our Savior teaches this form of prayer, He already knows we would recite it with remissness and negligence, and then after not being heard, we would become slothful.  In order to avoid this indolence in prayer, it is more advantageous to be persistent in prayer.  There's also the need to understand that God's time is not always our time.  God intends to grant our earnest petitions but only at a time when it is most beneficial to us.  You simply don't set before a child a jar of cookies right before dinner.  Our own summation that God perhaps doesn't see our needs as pressing usually causes impatience and then finally leads to a tendency to give up.  Fortunately, in all of these moments of human weakness God is patient and merciful with us.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time - July 17, 2016

First Reading Commentary
Mamre is near Hebron which is about twenty miles south of Jerusalem.  The Lord appeared to Abraham there apparently in the form of three men.  Saint Augustine refers to them as men in appearance only, but in reality they were angels.  This part of the story will probably forever remain in obscurity.  If these are angels that look like men, how does Abraham immediately identify them as angels or representatives of God? 
Some have suggested that Abraham didn’t know, but only that it was his nature to be hospitable.  The fact that Abraham bowed to the ground and referred to himself as a servant just doesn’t seem to support this theory.  In the New Testament, however, there is a passage in the Letter to the Hebrews that could at least lead one to consider this theory: “Do not neglect to show hospitality, for by that means some have entertained angels without knowing it” (Hebrews 13:2). 
Another theory is that one of the men is Jesus Christ and Abraham bows only in adoration of Him because the story seems to hint that by the use of the word “Sir” Abraham is addressing only one of the men.  This theory continues by stating that this is a presage of the Trinity as Abraham adores One in Three Persons. 
The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains that the message to Abraham concerning his wife Sarah foreshadows the Annunciation of the true Son of the promise (cf. CCC 2571).  As we read of the promise of a son for Abraham and Sarah, it is here that we can start to watch God's plan for the salvation of humanity unfold.
Second Reading Commentary
The opening verse is often misunderstood.  It does not mean that Christ’s sufferings are insufficient or that somehow He didn’t finish the job.  Saint John Chrysostom explains: “Jesus Christ loves us so much that He is not content merely to suffer in His own Person, but He wishes also to suffer in His members; and thus we fill up what is wanting in the sufferings of Christ.”  Notice he says “what is wanting in the sufferings of Christ.”  “Wanting” is a more accurate translation of the Greek and perhaps even more appealing because it suggests a desire of Christ whereby “lacking”, the word used in this Reading, although not intending to, could easily lead one to think along the lines of insufficiency or that Christ really didn't finish what He came to do. 
Saint John Chrysostom continues: “The wisdom, the will, the justice of Jesus Christ requires and ordains that His Body and members should be companions of His sufferings, as they expect to be companions of His glory.”  Let’s face it - no one can question the fact we are sinful creatures with a limited capacity for comprehension.  We really can’t fully understand the boundless love that intimately connects us to our Lord through something as inconvenient as suffering.  We won’t fully appreciate this until we get to heaven.  It should be understood, however, that suffering in itself is not a means of sanctification unless it is endured patiently and accepted in obedience to God’s will. 
Saint Paul continues his letter with a reference to “the mystery hidden from ages and from generations past, but now it has been manifested to His holy ones.”  This mystery is Christ's Incarnation.
Gospel Commentary
The unwritten law of hospitality in the ancient East would require that both Martha and Mary serve the meal for their guests.  This is why Martha takes exception with Mary.  One of the angles to this Gospel, which has been alluded to by so many of the saints is that this story shows the two paths of life: the contemplative life and the active life.  Saint Jerome, Saint Gregory and many others agree that nothing could be found more proper for the illustration of these two states of life. 
Another angle to consider is that for those of us who do not live behind the walls of a monastery, the example of both Martha and Mary is necessary in our lives to help us maintain a healthy spiritual life.  Mary represents the interior life, one of prayer, meditation and contemplation.  Martha represents charitable works.  A good prayer life helps to relieve the anxieties that cause worry and stress.  You know the old saying: “Charity begins at home.”  Anyone who has grown up in a loving household or has ever been a parent knows how true that statement is.  Parents spend countless hours trying to make a good life for their children as well as teaching them holy values.  This is not an easy vocation.  It requires love, patience, sacrifice and rest.  All four of these attributes can be sought out through prayer. 
Is there anyone more equipped to learn and experience love from, than the One Who is Love Himself?  Do we need to go any further than the pages of the Gospels to see the greatest Example of patience?  Who better to seek out to try to understand sacrifice than He Who made the ultimate Sacrifice?  Is there a more valuable way to seek rest other than Mary’s example of sitting at the Feet of Jesus? 
Whether our charity is inside or outside of the home, it is very difficult to be Jesus for others and see Jesus in others if priority is not given to setting aside time to experience His Love, Companionship and Wisdom – or as Our Lord calls it – the better part.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time - July 10, 2016

First Reading Commentary
What Moses is saying to the Israelites is that there is no excuse to plead ignorance of the commandments and statutes of the Lord.  This sounds harsh but it is actually a loving plea from Moses.  God’s will for them is not ambiguous - it is clearly written in the book of the Law, therefore, Moses pleads with the people of Israel to return to the Lord with all their heart and soul. 
This message is timeless.  Today, there’s really no reason to be in the fog when it comes to understanding what our Faith teaches.  It’s in Sacred Scripture; it’s in the Catechism.  Church documents, papal encyclicals, writings of the saints and early Fathers are all over the internet.  All that is required is the same that was required of the Israelites - returning to the Lord with the full extent of heart and soul. 
What would Moses say of our age of political correctness?  Can you even begin to imagine him saying something like: “It's a good idea to return to the Lord with all your heart and soul, assuming that’s what you really want and it doesn’t interfere with your schedule, and it’s not going to agitate your family or offend your friends?” 
While this sort of diplomacy will not likely pluck anyone’s nerves, in reality it is a disservice to the hearer.  If truth is to be offered with a sincere expression of love it can never be watered down.  Truth is not always popular or easy to hear, but it will set us free.
Second Reading Commentary
“Christ Jesus is the Image of the invisible God.”  The Catechism of the Catholic Church reads: “By His revelation, the invisible God, from the fullness of His love, addresses men as His friends, and moves among them, in order to invite and receive them into His own company” (CCC 142). 
Saint Thomas Aquinas relates “Image” with “prototype” and says that Image has three qualities at the same time:
It must have a likeness with the original prototype.
It must be derived from the prototype.
It must belong to the same species as the prototype.
This explanation of “Image” delineates that mere likeness alone would not be sufficient.  A photograph, for example, is a likeness but it is not an image in the sense that is applied here.  By Saint Paul writing that “Jesus is the Image of the invisible God,” he most certainly means God the Father.  Therefore, Christ is the Image of God the Father because He exemplifies the Father.  Saint John Damascene explains that image in itself does not demand equality with the original model, but we know that Christ, the Image, is identical and equal to the Father in every way.  The only difference is that Jesus is begotten. 
Saint Paul continues this letter by writing that Christ is “the firstborn of all creation.”  This is not a reference to being born of the Virgin Mary.  Paul’s meaning is that Jesus was before all creatures, proceeding from all eternity from the Father.  Firstborn, then, as it is applied here is a metaphor for pre-existence before creation. 
Christ is Supreme, Eternal and the final revelation of God because “all things were created through Him and for Him.”  He is the reason and cause of all things and yet as our Creator He does not distance Himself from us, but instead, He thirsts for intimacy with His brothers and sisters by means of His boundless love. 
Christ is “the Head of the Body, the Church,” and yet His Sovereignty over the members does not deter Him from a close and intense union with them.  He is “the firstborn from the dead” in the sense that He is the first to rise to a new life and in His glorious triumph He is the cause of our resurrection. 
“For in Him all the fullness was pleased to dwell.” Generally, “fullness” is synonymous with “totality”. In this case, however, fullness more appropriately means “all existence”.  Being reconciled to God through Christ with those on earth primarily means the human race; but what does Paul mean by reconciliation with those in heaven?  Saint John Chrysostom defines those in heaven as angels.  This doesn't mean, however, that Christ sacrificed Himself for angels.  Angels in heaven are totally and unequivocally devoted to the cause and glory of Almighty God.  This suggests, then, that before Christ’s redeeming Sacrifice the angels were at enmity with the human race because our sins separated us from God.  Christ put an end to this division by restoring us to God’s favor through the Blood of His Cross.
Gospel Commentary
A scholar asks Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life.  Jesus refers him to the Law, of which this man, because he is a scholar, would know like the back of his hand.  The scholar quotes the part of the Law that is found in Deuteronomy (6:5).  Most likely, any Jew of Christ's day would have answered the same way since these words of the Law are the beginning of what is known as the “Shema”.  This is the ritual prayer that was required to be said by every Jew twice a day.  What’s interesting about the scholar’s answer, though, is that he added the words “and your neighbor as yourself”.  This is not part of the Deuteronomy text or the Shema but is found in the Book of Leviticus (19:18).  The Law did require neighborly love but was almost never referenced by the doctors of the Law.  The combination of the two biblical texts is found nowhere in the rabbinical writings.  It would seem that Saint Luke is presenting this scholar to us as a man who is not committed to the Law in the traditional sense, but who was able to discern the spirit of the old Law and thus surmised that Jesus was a kindred Soul.  Jesus, Who knows what’s in the heart of every human being obviously saw that this man was indeed a scholar beyond the traditional sense because the parable that Jesus tells involves a Samaritan; and the relationship between Jews and Samaritans was not pleasant as Saint John's Gospel makes note of: “Jews have nothing to do with Samaritans” (John 4:9). 
Keep in mind, though, Samaritans also followed the Pentateuch and regarded Moses as their teacher.  The contrast in Christ’s story is vivid.  On one hand, there is a wounded man, presumably a Jew.  He was stripped, beaten and left for dead.  A priest and a Levite, both of whom earn their living from the offerings of the people, at least by human standards and conscience would be more obligated to the command of neighborly love and concern.  Both, however, ignore the wounded man and pass him by.  On the other hand, a Samaritan who is not well-liked as it is, and who is also walking in unfriendly territory, shows compassion to the wounded man.  This story makes it abundantly clear that our neighbor is anyone and everyone in need. 
Upon further review, which has already been done for us by many of the early Church Fathers, this reveals that there’s more to this Gospel passage than meets the eye.  The Fathers teach us that Jesus is also speaking allegorically and this story has a much deeper meaning.  The Samaritan is actually a representation of Christ.  The wounded man represents the condition of the human race before our Lord's Supreme Sacrifice on the Cross.  The robbers represent the devil that stripped the human race of their supernatural gifts and wounded our relationship with our heavenly Father.  The priest and Levite represent the Old Covenant.  The oil and wine represents the Sacraments while the inn where the wounded man was taken to receive care represents the Church.  Finally, the innkeeper represents Saint Peter, his successors, the bishops and priests.  Saint Jerome, Saint Ambrose, Origen and many others are all in agreement on this. 
The Catechism of the Catholic Church summarizes this Gospel with the following: “Our Father desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.  His commandment is that you love one another.  This commandment summarizes all the others and expresses His entire will” (CCC 2822).