Dt 30:10-14; Col 1:15-20; Lk 10:25-37
“Good Samaritan” to neighbour’s cat: Little Tim was in the garden filling a hole when his neighbour peered over the fence. Interested in what the youngster was doing, he politely asked, “What are you up to there, Tim?” “My goldfish died,” replied Tim tearfully, without looking up, “and I’ve just buried him.” The neighbour said, “That’s an awfully big hole for a goldfish, isn’t it Tim?” Tim patted down the last heap of earth, and then replied, “That’s because he’s still inside your stupid cat.”
In today’s Gospel, a scribe asked Jesus a very basic religious question: “What should I do to inherit eternal life?” In answer to the question, Jesus directed the scribe’s attention to the Sacred Scriptures. The Scriptural answer is, “love God and express it by loving your neighbour.” However, to the scribe the word “neighbour” meant another scribe or Pharisee – never a Samaritan or a Gentile. Hence, the scribe insisted on clarification of the word “neighbour.” So Jesus told him the parable of the Good Samaritan. The parable clearly indicates that a “neighbour” is anyone who needs help. Thus, the correct approach is not to ask, “Who is my neighbour?” but rather to ask, “Am I a good neighbour to others?”
Now how do we apply this parable today? We need to remember that the road from Jerusalem to Jericho passes right through our home, parish, school and work place. The Jericho Road is any place where people are being robbed of their dignity, their material goods or their value as human beings. It is any place where there is suffering and oppression. As a matter of fact, the Jericho Road may be our own home, the place where we are taking care of a mother or father, husband or wife, or even our own children. We may find our spouse, children or parents lying “wounded” by bitter words, scathing criticism or other, more blatant forms of verbal, emotional or physical abuse. Hence, Jesus invites us to have hearts of love. What God wants more than anything is for us to show our love to others, in our own home and school, in the workplace, and in the neighbourhood, as the Good Samaritan did. Jesus is inviting us to have hearts of mercy for those who are being left hurt or mistreated on any of the “Jericho Roads” of life.
Are we good neighbours? A good neighbour does not say, “I do what I want to do,” or even, “I do what I have to do,” but, “I do what I ought to do.” The lawyer’s question— “Who is my neighbour?”—reveals that he was really self-centred. The parable makes us realize that every human person is our neighbour. How have we been good neighbours this week? To whom did we behave in a neighbourly way? The parable is a condemnation of our non-involvement as well as an invitation for us to be merciful and kind to those in need, including those in our family, school neighbourhood and parish. We are invited to be people of generosity, kindness, and mercy toward all who are suffering. A sincere smile, a cheery greeting, an encouraging word of appreciation, a heartfelt “thank you” can work wonders for a suffering soul.
Now let us read this parable with a new twist or a different perspective: So how can we read the parable differently? We can do so by changing the character in the parable with whom we identify. Instead of seeing ourselves as the character who gives (that is the Samaritan) we can see ourselves as the character who receives (the man who fell in with the robbers). This radically changes the meaning of the parable. Instead of inviting us to give to others, the parable shows us how God gives to us, how salvation comes to us, how the kingdom enters our lives.
It comes as a surprise and as a gift. The parable is telling us that often God comes into our life as a surprise. The man in the ditch would have expected that the priest and the Levite, good people that they were, would stop to help him. They did not. But who could have thought that a Samaritan would have pity on him? Remember Jews and Samaritans were enemies and would not even greet one another on the street. So who could have guessed that this Samaritan would stop and show him mercy? No one. It was a surprise. In the same way, God surprises us.
If you feel you are in the ditch right now and looking for help know that God will reach out to you. That is the Good News of the Gospel. God will save us. God will bring us to life, but on God’s terms, not on our terms.