Saturday, July 14, 2007

The Good Samaritan

(15th Sunday in Ordinary Time, C)

Today, friends, we have St. Luke’s beautiful parable of the Good Samaritan. It’s a very rich parable and it deserves some sustained reflection. And one classic way to enter into Jesus’ parables is to imagine ourselves as one of the characters in the story, immersing ourselves in the feelings and spiritual insight of the experience. And so I’d like to try that today.

So let us imagine ourselves as the wounded man, for we are all wounded. We are bodies that are subject to decay, disease and eventually death. We are souls that are often compromised by our selfishness, shortsightedness and sin. In all of these things we experience ourselves as very limited in this world: sometimes frustrated, often anxious, sometimes depressed.

Who can save us from this wretched situation, as we lie hurt on the side of the road, often unable to move forward with our lives in every way we feel we should? Well, back to the story:

Who comes by first as we lie there half-dead? It’s the priest. But can the priest save us? No, the priest walks right by. The clergy, if we’re good, we might be able to point the way, but we can’t save anyone. Only God can do that. Who comes by next? It’s the Levite, the servant of God’s Temple. He represents the practice of religion. Can this save us? Will we be saved by our many prayers or devotions or religious practices? No, these can’t save us either, because salvation can never be earned—it is always a free and unmerited gift. The Levite walks right by us too—he can’t help our wounded situation.

But then someone comes by who has a compassion big enough to save us. It’s the Good Samaritan, an outsider, someone from somewhere else. It’s Jesus Christ, the human being who is also God, the Word of the Father made flesh. It is he who can save us, he who can tend our wounds. This is one of the deeper meanings of the parable: that the Good Samaritan is Jesus Christ himself.

So how does he save us? First he soothes our wounds with oil. This is the anointing of our baptism and our confirmation, both of which claim and mark us for Christ. He then pours wine on our wounds, disinfecting them. This is the Precious Blood of Christ that is the wine of this Eucharist—which we receive and which heals the wounds of sin and sadness in our hearts.

Then, having tended our hurts the Good Samaritan takes us to an inn where we may rest and recuperate. And this inn is the Church, brothers and sisters. Some people think the Church is a club for self-righteous saints. No—in the variously attributed quote, the Church is a “hospital for sinners.”

Thus, our wounds tended, finding ourselves in the safety of the inn, the Good Samaritan promises to tend to us again on his return journey. In the same way, as we proclaim in every Mass, “Christ will come again,” to bring us along in his journey back to the Father.

Now if we are even a little bit grateful for all this—that Jesus has come to us in our wounded state, soothed and disinfected our injuries, brought us to a place of safety and security, and promised to collect us on his way back to the Father—if we are at all grateful, there is only one appropriate response. And it’s the one Jesus himself gives after telling the parable: “go and do likewise.”

And this means that we who have been treated with such mercy and compassion by God should join in with God’s work in the world. As Jesus has been such a good neighbor to all of us, so we are called to be neighbor to all we see in need. And if we respond generously, we will join God is the great and divine work of healing, soothing, and making this world a place of safety. Let us “go and do likewise.”

1 comment:

Musical Monk said...

Thank you, of all the times I have read that verse, this was the first time I put myself in the position of the victim.