July 10, 2016, The Good Samaritan - Luke 10: 25-37
Sometimes we call someone a Good Samaritan. What do we mean when we call someone by this title? Most of us have an answer to this question though our viewpoints or conceptions of what it means to really be a Good Samaritan may differ. Jesus makes it very clear in Luke’s gospel. The Good Samaritan shows tremendous compassion and mercy for the bleeding dying man. The Good Samaritan did everything he could to help this victim of violence. He went above and beyond what many of us would consider or even be capable of doing. Jesus sets high standards for us for a reason. “We look to the ideal Jesus sets for us and try to emulate this ideal.” (from Father Adam’s homily, July 10).
We’re called to mercy for our brothers and sisters, to show mercy by caring for and helping one another. Pope Francis felt it was time to proclaim an extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy as a reminder for us to be loving and forgiving, to be kind and generous to our neighbor, and to be merciful as God is merciful. This Year of Mercy gives us an opportunity to grow in awareness of and concern for the needs of our brothers and sisters, to put love and care into action, and to continue to practice mercy the rest of our lives.
Why we’re we celebrating a Jubilee Year of Mercy.
Dear Brothers and Sisters: In our catechesis for this Holy Year of Mercy, we now turn to the parable of the Good Samaritan. Jesus had taught the great commandment of love for God and neighbor. In reply to the question: “Who is my neighbor?” he recounts the story of the priest and the Levite who pass by a man in need at the side of the road. Their religiosity is ultimately inauthentic, for it does not find expression in service to others. Love, the Lord tells us, is never abstract or distant; it “sees” and it responds. The compassion shown by the Samaritan is an image of the infinite mercy of God, who always sees our needs and draws near to us in love. The command to love God and neighbor, then, is supremely practical; it entails caring for others even to the point of personal sacrifice. By the end of the parable, we see that the “neighbor” is not so much the man in need, but rather the one who responded to that need with compassion. Jesus tells all of us to be neighbors in this sense: “Go and do likewise”. He himself is the model of the Good Samaritan; by imitating his love and compassion, we show ourselves truly to be his followers. Pope Francis
When has someone gone out of their way to help you? I can think of many examples over my lifetime when someone (family, friend or stranger) went out of their way to help me, asking nothing in return. There were times when I was helped with car trouble. Sometimes I was stranded on the side of the road. One time a passerby pulled my car out of a ditch. I was picked up off the ground when I slipped and fell on ice. Other times someone simply bought me lunch.
When have you gone out of your way to help someone you know? I can think of a few examples but one in particular was when I spent a couple of nights with someone in the hospital.
Think of a time when you have helped a stranger in need. We’ve probably all given money to people on the street at one time or other but also remember the people we’ve helped out monetarily through charitable organizations, that unseen silent giving so dear to God.
To the crowds gathered at St. Peter’s square Pope Francis said, "I'll tell you something, if this jubilee doesn't reach our pockets, it's not a real jubilee. Do you understand? This is in the Bible, eh, this pope isn't inventing that. It's in the Bible.”
We may never encounter someone bleeding and dying in the street but if we did in this day and age, it would be easy for us to get help for that person without taking total responsibility ourselves. Yet there are so many little ways we can help each other sometimes without giving it much thought. Recently when the plane I was on landed. I reached up to pull my carryon suitcase out of the overhead bin. A man behind me immediately took it out for me. I thanked him, but then half way down the aisle as I was leaving the plane, it was my turn to help on older lady get her bag down. “If we want mercy from God let us start by being merciful ourselves.” Pope Francis
Going back to this first reading, Deuteronomy 30:10-14, Moses tells the Israelites to search their hearts and obey the law given to them by God. Moses enjoins them to return to God with all their heart and soul. But then he gives the rhetorical question, where is the law written, in the sky? In the sea? “…No, it is something very near to you, already in your mouths and in your hearts; you have only to carry it out."
So in this gospel, when the scholar of the law asks “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus asks him “what is written in the law.” Jesus knows the scholar will have the right answer. Jesus also knows full well what is in the man’s heart. When the man continues questioning Jesus by saying “who is my neighbor?” Jesus immediately answers him with the parable of the Good Samaritan.
Hopefully it’s easy for us to help a family member in need. God appreciates this. It might not be too hard to help the person next door when he comes to our door and says, “My car won’t start. Can you give me a jump or drive me to work this morning?” But how easy is it to help a stranger. How much more does God appreciate it when we do help a stranger?
Pope Francis makes me wonder, “when was I a neighbor to someone I didn’t know.” The Good Samaritan was a neighbor to the suffering man who was near death. When do we take the initiative by responding without being asked?
Suddenly the Holy Spirit is speaking to me, in a way answering me which often happens when I write. The Holy Spirit answers directly to my heart. Not so much with words.
When do I take the initiative of responding to someone in need without being asked?
These two stories come to mind.
I once walked out of a grocery store in a big city and noticed a man sitting on the ground leaning against the building. Both of his legs were prosthetics. I was greatly affected by this but I passed him by and walked to my car. The man didn’t appear to be begging, possibly just resting but I felt compelled to do something. I walked back to him and asked if I could give this to him handing him a 5 dollar bill. I didn’t want to embarrass him but he just smiled and thanked me as he took it. Such a small gift but I thought, “at least I didn’t turn my back on him as I did to someone else.
This story keeps recurring to me with regret. I was going into a store this time. It was a cold winter’s day. I was wearing a quilted flannel shirt but was still cold. Just before I entered the store, I noticed a young man standing out front shivering. He was not wearing a jacket. He had his arms across his chest. His hands were tucked up in the sleeves of his t-shirt. When I came back out of the store, I saw that he was still there, still shivering very much. I thought he must be waiting for a ride but why was it taking so long? I immediately thought I should offer him my flannel shirt since I would be in the warm car soon, but no, I walked right by. For one thing I was attached to this old beat up shirt and also I didn’t want to embarrass him. Those were my excuses. So easy to make excuses why we shouldn’t help someone. When I got in the car I watched him shivering for a few minutes before starting the engine and heading home in my cozy warm car. Little did I know this picture of the young man shivering in the cold as I drove away would haunt me for the rest of my life.
God is letting me live with the regret of this missed opportunity to practice the corporal work of mercy to at least offer to clothe this young man from the cold.
God gives us a command to love our neighbor. Remember, Moses tells us that this command is not so mysterious, it is already written in our hearts. We only need to carry it out.
There are so many ways to practice unseen silent giving. You might be interested in checking out the links below.