(Luke 10:25–37) Sometimes when we’ve heard a story repeatedly, we begin to think that it has nothing new to teach us. But that is never the case with Holy Scripture. God’s Word is timeless and will always speak to us if we are open and willing to go deeper. In this week’s Gospel passage, we hear the familiar tale of the Good Samaritan. It’s probably one of the most famous parables from the Bible, yet its meaning is somewhat lost on modern day readers. Sure, we sort of know the story, but do we really understand what Jesus is trying to teach us?
Through no fault of his own, some poor soul has fallen on hard times. He’s been stripped, beaten, robbed, and left for dead. No one who passes by – even those individuals whom we would expect to be models of good behaviour – wants to get involved, to leave the comfort of his own little world to help the man who is clearly in need. Only the Samaritan has pity on the man and goes out of his way to help.
What Jesus is trying to demonstrate in this remarkable little tale is that it’s not just up to the Mother Teresa’s of the world to do good! Ordinary people, like you and me, must change society through acts of generosity, love, and compassion. We can be instruments of Christ’s peace and mercy by helping to restore the dignity of our fallen neighbour. What’s more, Jesus redefines what it means to be a neighbour. It’s not only the people who live and work near us, those individuals from whom we could ask a favour…and pay back in kind. As Christians, essentially any person with whom we come in contact is our neighbour.
So, what about the lawyer who posed the original question: “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Unbeknownst to him, the answer he seeks is contained in his very question. To inherit, we must be part of the family! This is precisely what Jesus is trying to demonstrate by His parable. When we become God’s children at baptism, He puts His law of love within us. The Old Testament describes it this way: “…The word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so that you can do it” (Deut 30:14). Our hearts – the way God made them – are expansive and intuitively know what to do, how to follow the spirit of the law. But the willful nature within us is only interested in following the letter of the law, in taking the narrow viewpoint. Many times, we know what we ought to do, but simply aren’t willing to do it.
And this is the difficult situation in which we find ourselves – facing that disparity between who we profess to be and what our actions really say about us. Rather than persisting in our selfish ways – in trying to justify our actions – let us look to Christ who can never be outdone in generosity. If we strive to lift others from their misery, we will never know a stranger, but will truly be a neighbour to all we meet.
– Kelley Holy