can learn a lesson from the lawyer in the gospel—the one who posted the
question to Jesus—the one so obsessed with the need to control and
define. This man's concern for defining his neighbor was not for his
neighbor's good, but for his own security and justification.
did not fall into his trap and presented him with a tidy definition of
who was his neighbor, realizing, full well, that the law of love could
not be captured in a definition. Jesus instead told a story which
defined, not so much a person, but a way of life.
Scriptures say so much... some of it not readily obvious at first, and
that is true of this gospel. For instance Jesus was doing something
quite radical in speaking of a Good Samaritan. The Jews and the
Samaritans hated each other. At the time this story was told, it was
explosive and offensive. Remember, Jesus told the parable to people who
saw themselves as chosen by God exclusively and had a strong hostility
toward Samaritans. They saw them as ceremonially unclean, social
outcasts and religious heretics. Jesus story is devastating to this
point of view. He did something unthinkable—he made a Samaritan a hero.
Jesus is giving us an early lesson in acceptance and the way we
who is your neighbor? It is simple. It is easy. Your neighbor is the
poor, the sick, the lonely and the neglected. These are, indeed, your
neighbors, because if you are human, nothing that is human is a stranger
to you. And if you are Christian, everything human is part and parcel
of you. I cannot really tell you who your neighbor is, the person to
whom you must show compassion. Only you know that. You, with your eyes
opened by God's grace. You, in your particular situation. Only you know
who you must reach out to.
years ago in Washington, DC, I heard a Baptist minister preach this
gospel. When he spoke of the priest and the Levite who passed by, he
said, "That priest and that Levite were perfectly at home in Jerusalem.
They could handle anything that had to be done in the temple: the
Torah, the altar, the incense and the animals to be sacrificed, the Holy
of Holies and the Ark of the Covenant. They were experts. They could
handle it all. What they could not handle was the event on the Jericho
of us walks, rides or jogs a Jericho road. On that road, for most of
us, there is something we would rather pass by, choose to ignore,
perhaps a part of ourselves that has fallen among robbers. We could
become tops in our field, stars at what we do and a huge success in the
eyes of the world. You could do all of this and still refuse to look at
that part of your life that is lying on the Jericho road. The part
that needs to be picked up, taken care of, needs so desperately to be
healed. Only you know what it might be. It could be many things. It
could be the compulsion to gossip, my uncharitableness, the way I can
ruin a person's reputation with just one sentence. It could be anger,
loneliness, depression, and pain, fear of death or fear of life.
hear a lot of talk in church about helping others, and that is good.
But do not forget yourself while you care for others, your life, your
feelings, your relationship with God, because you cannot give what you
have not got.
someone once said, "The glory of God is man and woman fully alive."
You cannot be fully alive if there is part of your life that you cannot
bear to look at. If there is part of you lying on the Jericho road, that
is the part that God wants. Pick it up. Take care of it. Let it be
healed. However, in the beginning, you may need to be your own Good
Samaritan. The gospel shows us that the kingdom of God that Jesus
preaches often turns our world and our expectations upside down.
is the foreigner, the lowly and the scorned Samaritan who shows
kindness and mercy to the man who was beaten and robbed, while the holy
men did nothing to help him. What a story we have heard. What a story
we are called to live.