Sunday, July 14, 2019
+ 15thSunday C +
I am a responsible and generous person. I can’t do everything. I can’t fix everybody else.
I want to put my efforts where they will do some good. Who is worthy of my attention and help? Who is my neighbor?
Prudential judgments must be made, but Jesus wants me to go deeper by telling me this parable. Before casting ourselves as helpers, we need to discover ourselves in the ditch.
Who lives in this world without experiencing its injustice, its random violence—without getting mugged by life? Who has not fallen in with robbers and left for dead—spiritually, emotionally?
In this part of Luke’s gospel, Jesus is on the road to Jerusalem. More a priest than we know, he must keep himself pure for the Great Sacrifice soon to be offered.
When Jesus sees me in the ditch, he does not pass by on the other side. He has compassion. He sees himself and his own destiny in our brokenness. He touches, he pours oil and wine over our wounds.
Our only claim for drawing the relentless compassion of God into our lives is our naked need.
Now the twist: Previously in Luke, Samaritans refused Jesus hospitality upon discovering he was on his way to Jerusalem.
There is no time for the whole story, but there had been 500 years of bad blood between Samaritans and Jews. The Talmud says, “a piece of bread given by a Samaritan is more unclean than swine’s flesh.”
Now Jesus identifies himself with a Samaritan, an enemy of his people, at whose hands he himself had been ill-treated. The Good Neighbor is a Samaritan.
It is important to be confronted with a God whose compassion is far beyond our categories of who is worthy.
It is important to be confronted with a God obviously at work in those we categorize as other, as threat, as less than—a God who demands that we stretch to know him as he is and to work with him as he does in the world.
Regardless of how unclean they might be in the eyes of society or even the Church, those most pleasing to God are those who, like him, draw no boundaries and set no limits to compassion.
What happened to our legal scholar? Each of us chooses and lives out the end of the story.
Did he take offense? Was he transformed by insight, humbled by the One who cared enough about him to risk his rejection?
We do know that Jesus continued to treat the lawyer with respect: “Which of these three, in your opinion, was neighbor to the man who fell in with robbers?”
We do know that the lawyer got the point, although he could not yet bring himself to utter the word Samaritan: “The one who treated him with mercy.”
Good Samaritans: “Go and do likewise.”