11 July 2010 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Deut 30, 10-14; Psalm 69; Col 1, 15-20; Luke 10: 25-37
The Parable of the Good Samaritan includes the two greatest commandments. It suggests that our love for our neighbor springs from our basic love for God. The first reading enjoins us to heed the voice of the Lord. The parable is important because it expands the meaning of ‘neighbor’ and illustrates that compassion is for all people.
The story begins with a victim of a robbery attack who was left on the road to die. Three passers-by saw him: a priest, who avoided him in view of purity laws; a Levite, a priestly class, who avoided him; and a Samaritan, considered an enemy of the Jews, who helped him. Today, the popularity of the parable can be found in how people understand the present-day Samaritan. At present, a Samaritan means a generous individual who provides aid to a needy person without hesitation. Thus, a Samaritan is someone who gives a positive response to the call of the Gospel. Their response is non-discriminatory. Their generosity is beyond race or segmentation or classification.
The parable’s message is explosive for many of us whose greatest talent is to categorize, classify, and catalogue people. The parable teaches us that an individual of a social group they disapprove or consider a rival can exhibit a superior moral behavior to their opponent in need. It also means that not sharing the same faith, interest or affiliate is no excuse to behave poorly. It also means that we can rise above our prejudices and let our human heart see the heart of another.
For the priest and the Levite, to touch a dead person means to go through the purity rituals in order to be clean again. To aid the victim was inconvenient. During His ministry, Jesus helped those who were considered outcasts and sinners even to the point of being ridiculed by the “holy men” of the Temple.
Let’s put these all on the ground with questions: Would you like to see a priest in the company of prostitutes or people with different sexual orientations? (Or, if you are a priest, would like other people to see you with them?) How about those with records of crime and corruption? Would you go with people who are regarded by “holy men and women” (yes, in quotation marks because they think they are the standard of Catholic faith) as against some basic Catholic doctrine? How about those who do not believe in God or God-haters in the internet? How about working together with the person you deeply hate? Would you help them?
This is a bitter pill to swallow. But we have ignored this truth for the longest time. The Parable of the Good Samaritan is not about donations; it is about you and I being personally involved in charity. It is easy to dole out; but it is challenging to help that includes some of our time, some amount of sacrifice, some getting out of the box. This is called compassion. Remember God sends the sun and the rain to both the weeds and the wheat.
But like all parables of Jesus, the image of the Samaritan sticks because it asks rather bluntly: Would we help only when it is convenient? Should we go out of our way to show compassion to all — whether they are within our circle or beyond it? After all, our hearts are cut out to love. The truth is this: it is possible to love even those whom we do not know or we do not like being identified with.