THE GOOD SAMARITAN
(A biblical reflection on the 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time [Year C] – 10 July 2022)
Gospel Reading: Luke 10:25-37
First Reading: Deuteronomy 30:10-14; Psalms: Psalm 69:14,17,30-31,33-34,36ab,37 or Psalm 19:8-11; Second Reading: Colossians 1:15-20
The Scripture Text
And behold, a lawyer stood up to put Him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the law? How do you read?” And He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” And He said to him, “You have answered right; do this, and you will live.”
But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him, and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was; and when he saw him, he had compassion, and went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; then he set him on his own beast and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ Which of these three, do you think, proved neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed mercy on him” And Jesus to him, “Go and do likewise.”(Luke 10:25-37 RSV)
If the lawyer had heard very much of our Lord’s preaching, he had certainly missed the point. Apparently, the lawyer hoped that salvation could be achieved once and for all by doing some single thing. Jesus’ preaching had been an effort to overcome a naive legalistic approach to religious life. He emphasized that one’s whole life in every aspect had to be turned to God, that one’s attitude was more important than any single act. And so in the answer Jesus gave, derived indeed from the Old Testament, we hear an epitome of the spirit of the law that should color everything that one does: love God completely and love your neighbor as yourself. Jesus’ point was that a person does prepare himself for eternal life by performing any single work, great or small, but that he does so by living his whole life in accord with the law of love.
The lawyer was not satisfied with the answer, which he seemed to consider as too general. He wanted to get down to specifics. He wanted a nice, net limit within which he would fulfil his obligations. His questions, “And who is my neighbour?” was petty, small. The answer in the parable demanded bigness, generosity.
The parable meant to say that everyone is our neighbor, not just the people we live with, not just the people we like, Jews and Samaritans hated each other. The lawyer was a Jew, and so he thought of Samaritans as heretics, traitors, worthless scum, incapable of doing any good at all. The fact that the Samaritan was the hero of the story, and not the Jew, gave a special bite to it as far as the lawyer was concerned. It was a story of the least likely person showing love to someone he was supposed to despise. The point was painfully clear: there are no limits as to whom the law of love must be applied. The teaching is easy to understand, but hard to put into practice.
Some people have commented that the good Samaritan in the parable represents Christ Himself. Whether that be correct or not, it is true that Jesus found the human race in bad shape, like a man beaten and lying on the roadside near death. He came to our rescue, and gave the supreme example of love, an example we are celebrating in the Mass today. That is the example we are all called to imitate.
Prayer: Jesus, You are my Lord and my Savior. I thank You for Your mercy and grace. Like the man who fell among robbers, I too was stripped and beaten up by sin, Satan, and the world. I was robbed of my dignity as a child of God and left for dead. No one could save me, not even my determination to do everything right. I was powerless. I am and will be forever grateful for such marvellous mercy and grace. Amen.
Jakarta, 9 July 2022
A Christian Pilgrim