July 14, 2019 • 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Reading 1: Deuteronomy 30:10–14
Psalm 69:14, 17, 30–37
Reading 2: Colossians 1:15–20
Gospel: Luke 10:25–37
The story of The Good Samaritan is so familiar that most of us can tell it by heart. It also probably means that we take it for granted, that we have gotten all we can out of it. When we think of the story, we put ourselves in the place of the Samaritan, knowing that WE wouldn’t act like the Levite or the priest. WE would have done the right thing. And of course that is where we have to stop and think a little harder. Would we have done what the Samaritan did? Would we actually pick up a bleeding and broken man off the road, put his bloodied body into our car, paid for a hotel room, and food, and his medical care, and then told the hotel manager that on the way back we would come in and pay all the rest of his bill for that week? Do you have any idea of how much that would cost? Would you trust that the hotel manager wouldn’t totally take advantage of your offer and present you with a bill that was rather large? Are YOU willing?
What we would do today is call 911, which is a free call, and think we have done our duty. Then we would film it on our phone and put it on YouTube and think we have really done our duty by sharing with the world that a crisis took place. Then we might bask in all the attention we got from all the views on YouTube, when we never even found out the man’s name. Well, maybe WE wouldn’t be so callous, but this world sure is, and it has a habit of rubbing off on us if we are not careful.
So what does God expect from us when he asks us to be Samaritans? Of course the greatest Samaritan is not the one in the story, but Christ himself! He is our example. He has picked us up off the road and set us up on our feet again and again. He knows that Satan robs us, cheats us, and beats us down. He takes our broken and bruised bodies and mends them at great cost to himself. He knows that no price is too much if it brings us redemption and heals us. The Good Samaritan gave a little time and some money, but Christ gave us his life, and he continues to pour out his life for us! The Samaritan was despised by the Jews for being a Samaritan, and Christ was despised by the Jews for being from Nazareth, for being merely a carpenter’s son, and for claiming that God had sent him — the nerve! But it is Christ, just as it was the Samaritan, who shows us the God’s way. When you love your neighbour as yourself, THAT is love.
God knows that we are little children in this regard. He doesn’t expect us to do the ultimate work of the cross all at once. It takes time for us to give up our selfish ways. When our own children are small, we work on these things a little at a time. We teach them that sharing their toys or their snacks is not the end of the world. They begin to remember that, when someone shared with them, it was a very nice thing, and they learn that sharing what they have with someone makes that person happy, and it actually makes them happy as well. Relationships are built. Sharing becomes something to look forward to. They realize that they didn’t need all those toys or all those cookies; that perhaps just one or two were enough, and that the whole plate of cookies was too much. We teach our children to have “open hands” and to stop grasping things selfishly — a phrase which Pope Francis has used in the past.
As we grow up and continue to live lives in Christ, we have to keep asking ourselves those same questions: Who is our neighbour? Can I help him? How can I help him? How should I help him? Can I give a little more? Can I release what I have and give it to him? And as adults, we can also start small in these things, if we need to. Maybe I wave to a new mom or a neighbour outside on a regular basis, but perhaps on the next occasion, I can take some of my time to chat with him, get his name, compliment him, or ask a question to get to know him better. Maybe I put $25 in the collection plate on a Sunday, but I can ask myself, do I really need ALL those expensive vacations, or that new couch, or yet another sweater, even if it was on sale? And pretty soon, our donations go up, and our money to charities goes up, and we find ourselves releasing some of that money without missing it very much. Maybe there is a homeless crisis in our city, and we find that we could stop playing baseball with the guys on Wednesday nights, and instead serve on a committee to try to solve the problem. Maybe somebody in our neighbourhood has a house fire, and instead of thinking, “They should have had insurance,” perhaps we can donate some of our belongings to tide them over, or give them some money to help them along.
I remember our house burning down when I was in my teens, and our neighbours helped to bury our two dogs (NOT a nice job!) and to clean out some of the more salvageable things. Others donated spare clothes they had, because insurance never comes through until later on, and you are suddenly out of everything all at once. My mom’s boss donated cash. Another neighbour loaned us his cottage (we lived on the beach as permanent residents, but he and his family were only summer residents). He did this free of charge, for as long as we needed it, which actually went into the next summer — their time at the cottage — when our house was finally rebuilt and livable again. These people were doing the work of Christ, the Great Samaritan, even if they didn’t realize it.
So as you go through your week, have a conversation with yourself on a day-to-day basis, asking how you can be more open-handed with those who are in need, even if it means giving up something you want but don’t really need. Ask yourself if you can give more of yourself to your neighbours by way of pleasant conversation, taking an interest, or lending a hand. Remind yourself that spending more time helping your neighbour is more important than spending more time catching up on your favourite TV shows. Have a conversation with a fellow Christian who has embraced the lies about abortion or about divorce and remarriage (and believe me, that will cost you more than an extra $20 given to charity, but admonishing the sinner is also a work of mercy).
Pretty soon you will be downsizing your house and upsizing your giving. You will have fewer clothes in your closet, and someone will have more food on his table. You will be spending time having coffee with your lonely neighbour and less time watching your shows. You will be running the local soup kitchen and wondering how you ever lived without doing these things. You might even find yourself standing firm for the truth while losing your job in the bargain. Pretty soon, you will be the Samaritan, the light of Christ, in the lives of those around you. Think about the possibilities of reminding the world what it is to be human again, because I think every generation readily forgets that truth, because of the sin which so easily besets us. Every generation needs the Church to remind them of what that means. Go out and be Christ to the world!