The Gospel of the Day – 2016.07.10
There was a lawyer who, to disconcert Jesus, stood up and said to him, ‘Master, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ He said to him, ‘What is written in the Law? What do you read there?’ He replied, ‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbour as yourself.’ ‘You have answered right,’ said Jesus ‘do this and life is yours.’
But the man was anxious to justify himself and said to Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbour?’ Jesus replied, ‘A man was once on his way down from Jerusalem to Jericho and fell into the hands of brigands; they took all he had, beat him and then made off, leaving him half dead. Now a priest happened to be travelling down the same road, but when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. In the same way a Levite who came to the place saw him, and passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan traveller who came upon him was moved with compassion when he saw him. He went up and bandaged his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them. He then lifted him on to his own mount, carried him to the inn and looked after him. Next day, he took out two denarii and handed them to the innkeeper. “Look after him,” he said “and on my way back I will make good any extra expense you have.” Which of these three, do you think, proved himself a neighbour to the man who fell into the brigands‘ hands?’ ‘The one who took pity on him’ he replied. Jesus said to him, ‘Go, and do the same yourself.’
A Teaching for All Time
Today’s gospel calls on us to examine the depths of our conscience.
Jesus’ interlocutor asks Jesus what he must do to have eternal life. That man; a lawyer, was looking to gain possession of something beyond himself, looking to earn it through some deed, some set of action, perhaps through a “way” of life, or perhaps even simply by thinking about things in the “right” way, having the “right” beliefs, the “right” doctrine.
Jesus does not answer his question directly. He does not tell him what he must do to have “eternal” life. He directs the lawyer to summarize his understanding of the law. The lawyer knows what Jesus is looking for, and he recites the Shema, which Jesus has been teaching from throughout his ministry; to love God above all things, and to love your neighbor as yourself. Jesus tell the man that if he does this he will have life, true life in the here and now. The fullness of life is the Shema.
The lawyer acts confused, and so Jesus illustrates his point in the narrative that follows. The parable that has come to be known as that of the “Good Samaritan.”
He tell the story about a man who is suffering and near death. Two people pass him on the road. They ignore him and offer no help. One of the men is a priest, and the other is a man of a notable tribe, a Levite.
The both ignore the man’s suffering, the reason is not given, but it has been commonly understood that the reason is that both the priest and the Levite feared something. Perhaps they feared violence, or they might have feared coming in contact with his wounds, the blood from which would have defiled them and placed them in a state of ritual impurity. Whatever the case may be; they feared something and did not help. They were unable to see his suffering reflected in themselves.
Along comes a man of Samaria, who tends to his wounds and provides for his recovery. The man from Samaria has no connection to the unfortunate one, but he acts on his behalf anyway. It is likely that he was also afraid, but that he set aside his fear in order to serve the good.
This is the essence of life, while fear is the road to death.
This is a teaching for all time.
It is the human struggle that will never leave us. It is a struggle that each of us must find a way to overcome in our way.
15th Sunday in Ordinary Time