Today’s Thoughts: In our Gospel today we hear the beautiful and perhaps threatening parable of the Good Samaritan. A scholar of the law asks Jesus a question, it is asked to begin a discussion rather than a request for information. Jesus, answers the question with a question. The man knows the Law well and responds correctly. According to the Book of Leviticus, 19, 18, loving neighbor is a sacred responsibility of the faithful Jewish person. So to extend the discussion and perhaps get the upper hand, the scholar asks the obvious question and Jesus takes it out of the scholar’s hand and lays it on his heart.
A Samaritan becomes the central focus of the story by placing himself in the vulnerable position of not being anybody’s neighbor. The beaten man sets up the tension. The two religious figures, who do not tend to the man, heighten the gesture of the disliked Samaritan. Jesus is telling this story to move from the Law to the Good News. The good news of the parable has several aspects.
Perhaps the two who pass by on the “opposite side” have their religious reasons. Their being faithful to their understanding of the laws of physical purity are righteous in their eyes. The good news that Jesus expresses in the parable is that “unlawful” love of the injured is the new and complete righteousness. Keeping our eyes and hearts open to those in need is more blessed than keeping our eyes on law.
The Samaritan is moved with compassion flowing from his head and heart. Jesus is the compassionate stranger to our fallen, robbed-of-innocence humanity. Jesus is on “our side” and takes us to the “inn” of his embrace after tending to our wounds through the Sacraments. “Oil” and “wine” are the healing “bandages” of Jesus’ touch.
The good news is that we are relieved from our wondering what exactly are we to do when healed and sent back on our journeys. We are to “Go and do likewise.” Selfishness in its various forms of protection, personal image, and indulgence, are very close to our minds and hearts. This interior law is not so far away or high above us. We do not need anybody to teach us how to be greedy, egocentric, or lazy.
There are two forms of “good news”. One is the selfishly good news that each of us can walk on the “opposite” side of the other “good news” which we keep hearing and making the center of our lives. The selfless law of Jesus is warming to the heart when we hear it, but the other “good news” of our ignoring selves, still remains in effect.
So once again, the Gospel puts us in tension. We ask also “who is our neighbor,” we ask whom we should care for and whom can we pass by. We would say that our neighbor is the one who will appreciate our gestures of generosity. Our neighbors are those whom we know. Our neighbors are those who are similar to us; think the way we do, act in accordance with our values. This is natural and warming to the heart and mind.
Jesus’ teaching is his whole life of including, embracing, and saving us in our being stripped, beaten by the ways of the world within and around us. He has brought us from our own being half-dead back to full life. Jesus keeps teaching us to share, to extend his compassion, and work to heal.
In doing this, Jesus lives through our stoppings. As St. Teresa of Avila put it, “Christ has no body now on earth but yours.” But ours!
Have a blessed Sunday everyone!
Fr. Paul R. Fagan, C.P. "Preacher on the Run"
Just a few thoughts to help you on your journey through life...let me know from time to time what you think...