July 10, 2016
Dt 30:10-14 Ps 69:14, 17, 30-31, 33-34, 36, 37 Col 1:15-20 Lk 10:25-37
Lk 10:29 – But because he wished to justify himself, he said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
Christ’s parable of the Good Samaritan is a stark reminder that we are called to transcend our differences. Our neighbors are not merely those who look like us, or share our patronage, or subscribe to our points of view, or share our faith. Christ sets no restrictions on who we treat with compassion. Christ doesn’t establish a set of conditions that need to be met before we show mercy to those in need.
Christ’s command is more than an ER doctor treating an accident victim, or a firefighter rushing in to a burning home to rescue its occupants. Or Dallas police officers protecting peaceful protesters during the shooting tragedy late last week. No doubt about it, those actions are heroic and commendable, but Christ’s parable sets a different, higher standard.
It comes down to choice. The priest and Levite chose to ignore the beaten man. They chose to not get involved, for whatever reason. The Samaritan traveler, however, chose to help. He was “moved with compassion”. He didn’t count the cost, and he didn’t expect to be repaid. He chose to be inconvenienced, changing his plans to help a man who was for all intents and purposes his enemy. An Other. The “them” to his “us”. Such a thing in Jesus’ time was unheard of. Sadly, in today’s world, a similar action continues to astound and perplex.
The same choice is before each of us. Granted, very few of us are called to the degree Blessed Mother of Teresa or St Damien of Molokai were, but nonetheless, we’re all called to love our neighbor. We can still perform small acts with great love. No one is exempt. The scholar had initially asked Jesus “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”, so yeah, this is a matter of salvation.
Who is my neighbor? It’s whomever God deigns to place in my path today, tomorrow, and the day after. Whether I agree with them or not. Whether he’s Catholic or not. Whether she hates me or not. It’s not enough to treat my brother with compassion and mercy – after all, Cain murdered Abel, and had the nerve to ask “Am I my brother’s keeper?”
Jesus’ challenge is “You are your neighbor’s keeper”. Jesus’ command is “Go and do likewise.” Easier said than done, but with God’s grace, all things are possible.