Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Year C - 10th July, 2016

Who is My Neighbour?

The story of the Good Samaritan is a call to examine our bigoted and prejudiced attitudes toward others. We have heard it so often that  we simply allow ourselves to be reassured by  its familiarity rather than be challenged by its radicalness. It is as relevant today as it was in the time of Jesus.

The recent upsurge of racism as a result of Brexit tells its’ own story. This is something we must not tolerate.

We know that Jews despised Samaritans, and that Jesus was challenging the lawyer  to  see that goodness can be found beyond the chosen people. We might also reflect that Samaritans in their turn rejected Jews, and that not  long  before Jesus told this parable he was turned away from a Samaritan village because he was  a Jew. Remembering this, we can see that Jesus is challenging not only the lawyer but his own disciples. Those of us who follow him need to examine our hearts regularly so that we can strive to be free from prejudice. We must recognise goodness at work wherever it is to be found, and to realise that no group has a monopoly on virtue. Our true self  is expressed in our words and in our actions..

The  mugged  traveller  might  well  have  prayed for help as he  laid  by  the  roadside  and must have felt that they were being answered when he saw a priest walking towards him. But, to his horror, the priest crossed over the road and passed by on the other side. How the wretched man's faith in God must have been tested in that moment.

Despite appearances, however, God had listened to the cry of this poor man and came to his help in a most surprising guise. The man must have felt no comfort at seeing a Samaritan approaching. But this Samaritan was filled with compassion. He bandaged the man's wounds and paid for his recuperation out of his own money.

After Jesus has told the story, he asks the lawyer: "Which of these three proved himself to be a neighbour?" The obvious answer would be "The Samaritan," But the lawyer cannot bring himself to say the word Samaritan. Instead, he says it in a roundabout way: "The one who took pity on him."

The love that Jesus asks of us is certainly to  love the rejected and the beaten among us, the immigrant, the asylum seekers, and the homeless in our city, those whom no one wants.

Who am I passing by? Are there other injured people in mind or spirit or body who need my help? 'Who proved himself a neighbour to the injured man? The one who took pity on him. Go, and do the same yourself.

It is so easy to apply this story to others. The real Gospel gift is to allow the power of God’s word not only to challenge us but to change us remembering that self-righteousness is much more treacherous than selfishness.

 

Fr Kevin O'Shea, C.M.