Fifteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time – Cycle C
1st Reading – Deuteronomy 30: 10-14
Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 69: 14, 17, 30-30, 33-34, 36, 37
2nd Reading – Colossians 1: 15-20
Gospel - Luke 10: 25-37
This parable is so popular; it has given us an American expression for someone who helps a stranger. They are known as a “Good Samaritan.”
Jesus is still on his journey to Jerusalem when he is posed with this question from the curious lawyer. And, we must understand that questions were not that simple. They were not just requests for information, they were opportunities to challenge personal honor and to shame with ignorance. Jesus decides to demonstrate that “discipleship” is an action word. Put your money where your mouth is. Jesus explains, describing a story to illustrate that neighbors are formed when people are open and vulnerable.
Obviously, the injured man was vulnerable. He could not help himself. And the Samaritan was open and vulnerable. We must remember that Samaritans were regarded as enemies in Luke’s gospel. Think back to the gospel reading 2 weeks ago. Jesus sent the disciples to the Samaritan village, and they were rejected there, and the disciples wanted to rain down fire upon them.
At that time, to a Jew, the definition of neighbor would have meant no one else but a fellow Jew, a “co-brother of the covenant.” Jews believed that outsiders were unclean.
One of the perks of doing the commentary is in the job description. The dictionary defines commentary as "A series of explanations or interpretations." So, the explanation part is often difficult, but the interpretation part can be fun. Whenever I read the gospel, it’s easier for me to change the story to fit my circumstances, than it is to place myself in Jesus’ time. So here is my modern-day version.
An ACLU lawyer, trying to test Jesus, asked him what he had to do to inherit eternal life. (Note the use of the word “inherit.” He certainly did not want to work for it.) Jesus turned it back on him and said. “You’re the big shot with the Harvard education; you tell me what the law says.”
The ACLU lawyer was quick with an answer to demonstrate to everyone listening, including Jesus, that he knew what he was talking about. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength and with all your mind and your neighbor as yourself.”
Jesus said to him, "Good! You just answered your own question, Mr. Smarty Pants."
But the ACLU lawyer (being an ACLU lawyer) couldn’t resist the argument and said to Jesus, “Well, who is my neighbor?”
And Jesus told this story…
Once upon a time, a woman was traveling down the road where she was attacked by a bunch of gang members. They beat her and stripped her and left her for dead on the side of the road.
Along came a priest on his way to the Cathedral. He was the guest of honor that night at a celebration for receiving the title of monsignor. He pulled up in his car, saw the woman lying there and thought to himself, “Gee, I really should help her, but I’m already late, and, holy cow, she is bleeding a lot. She might get me all dirty and I would have to drive all the way back to the parish house to change. Then everyone, including the Bishop, would be waiting for me, and I would have to explain where I have been. Besides all this, she is a woman and considering all of the scandals surrounding priests lately, I might be accused of groping her or even worse. I think it's just best that I go on my way. Hopefully, someone else will come along and help her.”
A few minutes later, Deacon Dan came driving down the same road and saw the woman. He too, was on his way to the Cathedral for the celebration for Fr. Frank whom he admired very much. He thought to himself, “Well, I saw Fr. Frank pull over at about this location. I guess he thought she was going to be alright. Surely, if she really needed help a wonderful man like Fr. Frank would have helped her. I’m sure she’ll be fine, and I really don’t want to be late to the Cathedral. I’m already in trouble with the Bishop over that quote in the newspaper; I better just go on ahead."
A few minutes later, after Deacon Dan had pulled away, the most unlikely of characters stopped at the scene. It was a Conservative Politician. One of the most hated individuals in our society today. The Politician was on his way home from the Republican National Convention. He parked his gas-guzzling SUV on the side of the road, grabbed his pistol, got out of the car, and approached the woman. It was apparent that she was injured, but since she could not speak, and was not clothed, he knew nothing more about her. He immediately ran back to his Hummer and got out everything he could find to help her. He didn’t have any medicine, so he pulled out a $400 bottle of champagne he had saved for the victory party after the election. He cleaned out her wounds by pouring the champagne on them. He didn’t have any bandages, so he used the extra “TRUMP 2020” bumper stickers he had collected at the convention. He wrapped the bumper stickers around her wounds, picked her up, and put her in the Hummer.
The Politician ran a considerable risk by helping this victim. What if she was a Feminist and would be very upset that a conservative man had stopped to help her? Worse yet, what if she was a liberal Democrat and upon reaching consciousness freaks out because she realized that she was covered head to toe in TRUMP 2020 bumper stickers and that she had actually been transported in an SUV?
Then, the Politician did something even more incredible. He took the woman to the Ritz Carleton Resort and Spa and cared for her there. Then he gave the innkeeper all of the money that he had left from his S & L buy-out and told the man to care for her and that he’ll return and pay him whatever left that was owed.
Jesus then turned to the ACLU lawyer and asked, “Which of these three, in your not so humble opinion was a neighbor to the woman?"
The ACLU lawyer could not bring himself to utter the words Conservative Politician in a positive light, so he used a description, “The one who treated her with mercy.”
Jesus said, “Go and do likewise.”
Funny how it is easier to buy into and understand the stereotypes than it is to accept God’s counter-cultural expectations. But in the end, it is how we love our neighbor that signifies to the world how we really love God.
No one wants to be associated with the priest or the deacon in my story. His behavior was not the best example. For our current, left-leaning society, it would be unconscionable to identify with the Conservative Politician. But we can all relate to the victim. Is it really better to die than to be helped by my mortal enemy? If I were half-dead, would I refuse the only help available even if it came from my enemy?
Jesus is calling us to a new world order. The Samaritan was the hero, and the Israelite was the victim. In this parable, the Samaritan was righteous by his actions. Perhaps the real question here is, "Who really is my enemy?"
Recall an event in your life when you experienced pain (physical or emotional), depression or loneliness. Remember the issues and the feelings that led up to the event, and the feelings during and after that time in your life.
What were the questions that this event or time in your life raised for you about relationships? …..about God? …..about your life?
Who was there to be with you or help you during this time in your life?
As children each of us was taught that there are people we ought to avoid. Most of the time, these lessons, whether implicit or explicit, were to protect us children.
As a child, who were the people you were told to avoid?
What were the assumptions being made about these particular people?
What persons or groups do you avoid today as an adult?
What change is the Gospel calling you to make in your attitude/action toward others?
*In a study that used this parable with seminarians, the issue of time was the most significant factor in the generosity of the seminarians toward an injured person. HAVE WE BECOME TOO BUSY TO CARE FOR THOSE IN NEED?