|Memorial of Our Lady of the
Psalm 111:1-2, 7-8, 9, 10
The gospel for today is rich fare indeed. It is the well-known story of the “good” Samaritan. Jesus tells that parable in answer to the question posed by a scholar of the Law. He asks Jesus the not-quite-ingenuous question about gaining eternal life.
Jesus turns the question back to the scholar whose famous answer is found in two places in the Hebrew Bible; we gain eternal life when: we love God with our whole heart and love our neighbor as ourselves. But the scholar presses on with his questioning and asks, "Who is the neighbor?"
Instead of answering in the abstract with a list of qualities and characteristics that describe the neighbor, Jesus tells the story of the man who fell victim to robbers who stole from him, beat him half to death and left him to die by the side of the road. A Priest and a Levite separately see the man in his need and walk on by.
But a Samaritan when he approaches the man in dire need cares for him. Remember that the Jews for religious and cultural reasons despised the Samaritans. Yet it is he who St. Luke tells us is “moved by compassion” by the man’s situation and tends to him carefully and tenderly – not the professionally religious Priest or Levite.
The parable is meant to break our normal categories and to see things from a very different perspective. The way that the story should have gone is that the Priest and/or the Levite tended to the man in his need. But no, it was the dreaded Samaritan who is neighbor to the poor fellow.
What does the story say to us today? It’s as challenging and dramatic as it was when Jesus told it. Who is the “Samaritan” for us? What member of a group that we fear or hate do I need to supply as the hero of a contemporary “Good Samaritan” story? Is it the African-American, the Latino, the Arab, the homosexual, the biker, the thief, the _________ (fill in the blank)? And who passes the man by? Is it the church, the government, the rich and famous, or whomsoever of the stars of our world?
Lord, you offer a magnificent challenge to our staid ways of thinking
in the parable of the Good Samaritan. Help me to think honestly and
with vigor as I identify those that I relegate to the category of feared
and despised minorities in my world. Help me to see with your eyes
instead of my own tired and jaundiced ones.
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