Today as we listen to the memorable parable of the Good Samaritan, we can think about what we mean when we say the word “neighbor”
Reflections on the readings for the Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (July 10, 2022): DT 30:10-14; PS 69:14,17,30-31,33-34,36,37; COL 1:15-20; LK 10:25-37
MISSIO offers “Preaching Mission,” as a homily help, providing connections to mission from the readings of Sundays, Feast Days and Holy Days.
That is the point that Christ makes in the parable: a real neighbor puts love first.
Like many of Jesus’ parables, the one in the Gospel reading for this Sunday begins with a particular situation. He is questioned by a lawyer who wants to hear our Lord’s answer when asked: “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Christ responds with His own question. Since the man is a scholar of the Mosaic law, Jesus asks what the law says about it. His reply is that you must love the Lord with your whole being and your neighbor as yourself. Jesus commends his answer. But that lawyer is clearly unsatisfied. He still wants to hear what Jesus has to say, so he asks “who is my neighbor?” Christ proceeds to tell him and all gathered around the story of a traveler who was robbed, beaten, and left for dead. First a priest and then a Levite pass by. They see the victim and yet go on their way. “But a Samaritan traveler who came upon him was moved with compassion at the sight. He approached the victim, poured oil and wine over his wounds and bandaged them. Then he lifted him up on his own animal, took him to an inn and cared for him. … Which of these three, in your opinion, was neighbor to the robbers’ victim?’ He answered, ‘The one who treated him with mercy.’ Jesus said to him, Go and do likewise’” (Luke 10:33-34,36-37).
While the priest and the Levite did not know if the man were dead or alive, they probably hesitated to touch him to find out. Touching a dead person would make them ritually unclean. This would keep them from religious and other activities for a time. Perhaps, it was easier to assume that the victim was beyond help anyway. They saw a difficult situation and decided to do what was best -- for themselves. But the Samaritan put the injured man’s concerns above his own. He felt pity and offered mercy. That is the point that Christ makes in the parable: a real neighbor puts love first. Yet, the scholar himself already knew that fulfilling the law means loving God and neighbor. Too often, then and now, when we have to make tough moral choices we put our own preferences first. Or we may think we are better off just following rules and regulations, no matter the cost. But the law of God, Creator of all life, is love. “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” At heart, we already know.