Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Fifteenth Sunday Ordinary Time Year C

Readings: Dt 30:10-14; Col 1:15-20; Lk 10:25-37

God's view of neighbor that sets no boundaries and loving neighbor as God would are the phrases that capture best the message of this Sunday. The parable of the Good Samaritan is only found in Luke's Gospel. It is perhaps one of the best known stories that Jesus used and has over the centuries captured the imagination of many artists who have put the parable into drama, song, paintings and sculpture. The central message of the parable is found in what Jesus said before and after the story: “Do this and life is yours”, and “Go and do the same”. The lawyer was expecting a learned intellectual response from Jesus on “who is my neighbor?” Instead, Jesus told a surprising story of a foreigner becoming a hero, while Jewish religious leaders are the bad guys!

The story of the Good Samaritan is told in the context of God's command for love of neighbor, which was a sacred responsibility (Leviticus 19:18). In telling this story, Jesus shows that true love of neighbor must be put into action. It is not a mere intellectual concept or feeling. Jesus cleverly dramatizes the story knowing his audience. The story is meant to get the lawyer to ask the real question, “how do I become neighbor to others?”, rather than “who is my neighbor?” The point that Jesus makes is that we do not choose neighbors. Rather, Christians respond to peoples' needs irrespective of their color, creed or origin, and by so doing they become neighbors to them. Nor can we rationalize a situation when someone is in need. Here is a concrete situation that may pose a dilemma. A beggar comes towards you, and asks for alms. You immediately smell his alcohol. What the law of love of neighbor requires in this case is that go ahead and give alms. Jesus would not judge such a person. Neither should we. There is also an important twist in the story by Jesus. It is the despised Samaritan who cares for the person who was robbed and beaten up. The priest and the Levite were more concerned about the law on ritual purity. Therefore they preferred to avoid the wounded person in order not to be polluted. They placed observance of the law over the love and care for someone in need. In a sense Jesus becomes the Good Samaritan, the compassionate stranger who cares for all of us when we are robbed and wounded by sin. Jesus bandages our wounds and puts us in the inn (the Church). Here Jesus cares for and heal us through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, thus restoring us back to God’s grace. What do we learn from the readings of this Sunday? What do we take home? 1) The parable of the Good Samaritan challenges us to see God's view of neighbor that goes beyond any narrow definition. Thus we are challenged to extend the compassion of Jesus to everyone without boundaries. The first step in meeting this challenge is conversion of heart and mind towards anyone who is in need. 2) The story of the Good Samaritan invites us to go and do the same; to bind the wounds of those robbed of their joy, of their dignity and left to die on the road side naked. We are invited to go and bring Christ’s compassion and healing to whoever we meet on our way. In other words, our love for others must be as wide as God's love that excludes no one. We must therefore go and break down those walls and fences in our hearts that keep us away from serving those who are different from us. 3) The parable also invites us to pray for God's grace that our compassion may be real and practical as the Good Samaritan was; as Jesus Christ has always been in binding our wounds and caring for us when we are robbed of God’s grace and left dying by the way side.

 ©2016 John S. Mbinda

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