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Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Fr. Bob's Reflections on the Good Samaritan

Franciscan Friars

Franciscan Friars
Fr. Bob's Reflections on The Good Samaritan
(Luke 10:25-37)
We 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.
Jesus 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.
The 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 discriminate.
So, 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.
Some 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 road."
Each 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.
We 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.
As 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.
It 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.
Fr. Robert Warren
Yours in Christ,
Fr. Robert Warren Signature
Fr. Robert Warren, S.A.
Spiritual Director
Franciscan Friars
Franciscan Friars of the Atonement
— Graymoor —

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