Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?” He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” And he said to him, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.”
But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.
But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.’ Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved.
Today’s gospel from Luke 10 is well-known. It is the story of the Good Samaritan and his care for a wounded traveler. Jesus tells it in response to a scholar of the Jewish law who asks Jesus about inheriting eternal life. Jesus response invites us to love God and our neighbor. The lawyer, perhaps looking for finer points—or simply to show off—asks this question of the day for him, for others present, and for us as well.
A man is robbed and left for dead. Two religious leaders pass him by because the law says “Don’t Touch” or else you cannot worship in the Temple. But a Samaritan takes pity on him and cares for him. This is not a fellow Jew, but an enemy who cares for him. When Jesus asks who is “a neighbor,” the scholar of the law cannot say that only the scholar of the Law would treat him with mercy. “Go and do likewise,” Jesus says to him and to us.
Some months ago in Chicago, a man was knocked unconscious and fell into the street. People around did not help but robbed him instead. Then a cab ran over him and killed him. It was (and still is) a terrible day for humanity. None of us was there, but we are still invited can ask “who is my neighbor?” Is this person in my house, next door, down the street, on the train or bus, here or where? Some of the early Fathers of the Church saw Jesus as the Good Samaritan caring for wounded humanity. If we interpret the story in this manner, then it becomes very much a story of being Jesus’ disciple and accomplishing what “Jesus would do.”
Lord, we ask for the grace to weep over our indifference, to weep over the cruelty in the world, in ourselves, and even in those who anonymously make socio-economic decisions that open the way to tragedies. We ask forgiveness for the indifference towards so many brothers and sisters; we ask forgiveness for those who are pleased with themselves, who are closed in on their own well-being in a way that leads to the anesthesia of the heart. We ask you, Father, for forgiveness for those who at the global level have created situations that lead to human tragedies. Forgive us, Lord!