Saturday, Saturday, July 21, 2018

But wanting to justify himself, a legal expert asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

GOOD SAMARITANJesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, 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 while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity.  He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.’ 

Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?”  

The legal expert said, “The one who showed him mercy.”

Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.” – Luke 10:29-37

Traditionally we have titled this conversation between Christ and a man schooled in arguing the fine points of the Law as “The Parable of the Good Samaritan“.  Of late I have spoken of this well-known teaching, “A Discourse on Asking the Right Question“.

The legal expert’s self-justifying question was “And who is my neighbor, who falls within the circle requiring my love?”  But after the illustration Christ has transformed the question into, “What does it take to be a good neighbor?”  Refusing to answer the self-justifying question, Christ answers the question that ought to have been asked.

Christ constructs the parable with penetrating detail.  My legal expert who desires to build a loophole in the Law, who cared for the beaten man?  Was it one of your priestly friends, maybe a member of the priestly clan of Levi?  Or was it that Samaritan, that one whom you loathe with prejudice, that one who understands the faith in a different way from yours, that half-breed, that group of people long ago excluded from the Temple?

With reluctance the student of the Law admits …”Well, in that rabbinical story it would be the Samaritan.”  There is a pause … “Stop worrying who qualifies as a neighbor, rather go and be a neighbor following the example of that merciful Samaritan.”

Who is my neighbor?  The one to whom I am the neighbor.  But still … we keep trying to restrict who qualifies to live in “my neighborhood”.

Always in Christ’s Service,

Fr. Charitas de la Cruz


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