July 14, 2013
Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
The Gospels contain many stories--events drawn from Jesus' life and those within the central story: parables and allegories. Most Christians are exposed to these tales at a very early age. The Story of the Good Samaritan is one that we know well.
Most of us think about this story from the perspective of the Good Samaritan. We give little thought to the feelings of the man left half dead. Enmity between the Samaritans and the Jews was long standing. It is recorded as early as The Book of Kings and reached its peak when the Samaritans built their own temple. This antagonism continued through the time of Jesus.
For the followers of Jesus, his command to love was seen as most extreme in his call to love even Samaritans. For most of us, this tale presents an extreme case. All of us have read similar stories in our daily newspapers told from the perspective of the hero who helped the individuals attacked on our city streets and left to die. Many of these crimes are classified as hate crimes.
Look at it from another perspective. How do you think the man saved by a Samaritan felt? Perhaps he wished he had been left on the road. He owed his life, now, to someone who was by nature an enemy.
Good stories leave something to one's imagination. The reader or listener supplies the missing pieces with pertinent facts relating to him or her own life. One can insert the feelings and emotions of the characters in the light of his or her own emotions. For instance, how did the Samaritan feel as he chose to help the Jew? Perhaps he acted instinctively and regretted it as soon as he began. Perhaps he feared someone seeing him would assume he had attacked the man. Maybe he feared those who had beaten the Jew were lying in wait for him. Nonetheless, once he had acted, he was committed. He had pledged himself to more than that action. He had established a bond between the person he helped and himself. He could never, once that bond was established, categorize all Jews the way he had before. He had torn the cloak of prejudice in which he had been wrapped. All that remained was for him to make the decision as to whether he would discard the remnants still clinging or grasp them tightly to himself once more. In any event, he would never again be as tightly bound to the prejudices of his community nor would he as easily make decisions about the morality of that community's decisions.
Inherent in the Lord's call is a call to change the world...but first we must change ourselves. One way of doing that is by looking at the Gospel in a deeply personal way. We do that in relationship to those closest to us. What about the one in five American adults, who are functionally illiterate, unable to even read the warning on the medications they give their child, unable to fill out a job application? What about the elderly in your own parish starving themselves to death--not because they do not have the money for food--but because loneliness has taken over their lives and the thought of one more meal alone is more than they can bear? What of the "Latchkey Children" who live on your block left alone for two or three hours every afternoon until an overburdened and worried single parent arrives home to care for them?
Today we are called to discern our individual way of living the Gospel through prayer and openness to the ways in which the Spirit leads us to involvement. God’s word is very near to us.