Jul 9, 2016

15th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Who actually is the Good Samaritan?

The parable of the Good Samaritan is well known. Its language, images and the story itself can appeal to so many people. It can cut across cultures and even religions, so powerful the moral of the story is. Often it is cited as an example of accepting the stranger, loving our enemies and caring for those society leaves behind. In an obvious way, its meaning can be easily appreciated by all.

Yet, for the Christian, this parable has a deeper level. It must also move us towards developing within our Christian character particular virtues. What we traditionally call the seven corporal works of mercy, are examples of “a concrete witness to the preferential love for the poor which characterizes the disciples of Jesus.” (The seven corporal works of mercy: 1. Feed the hungry. 2. Give drink to the thirsty. 3. Clothe the naked. 4. Shelter the homeless. 5. Visit the sick. 6. Visit the imprisoned. 7. Bury the dead.)

So often, we have tried to be the Good Samaritan and have tended to see Christ in the victim, reminded by his words, "Whatever you did for the least of my brothers and sisters, you did it to me".

However, so that our doing good does not distract us from our own need for healing, we should never be afraid to also see ourselves in the one who is lying in the middle of the road. Think of it like this.

The man on the journey is you and me. We have left Jerusalem. In other words, we are far from where God lives.

In this way of retelling the parable (allow me to use the second person to better illustrate the reflection), the road takes you to Jericho, a symbolic place of being far from heaven.

On this lonely road, hostile forces easily prey upon and overpower you, robbing you of your dignity and your treasure. You might as well be dead.

The Jewish priest and Levite might represent religious ritual and legalism. In itself, it has no power to bring us to our feet.

The Good Samaritan is Christ himself who leaves the heavenly Jerusalem and travels the road searching us out.

We are far from home. Christ sees our wounds, our sins.

He is not repulsed by them, regardless of how deep the wound is in our soul.

Instead, he reaches out and touches them, bandages them with the sacraments of healing, which are confession and the anointing of the sick.

Oil poured upon wounds can comfort, as Christ’s presence ultimately does. But Christ, the Good Samaritan, also pours wine over the wounds. That can hurt and even sting for a while as does Christ’s words when spoken in judgment even to a Christian, so as to draw out into the open a poisonous infection which if left untreated can kill even the soul itself.

Christ then reaches down to lift you up, to carry you to a safe place. The refuge of the inn, we should look upon as the Church and the innkeeper is a shepherd of the soul. In other words, within the security of Christ’s Church the wounded can be brought to full health, always under the watchful eye of the a pastor who has received treasures from Christ (the two silver coins) and the responsibility to spend it towards salvation. (cf. John 21:15, “Christ’s words to Peter, “Feed my lambs”)

The Samaritan tells the innkeeper that he will return. Christ has told us that he too will return and we must be ready to give a full account of the gifts he has given us.

Too often we do not realize that we are on a dangerous road that can take us further and further away from God.

Weakened in body and wounded in soul by sins along the way, it is sometimes good fortune to collapse halfway on the journey rather than arriving at some point of no return.

Christ’s Church is like the Good Samaritan’s inn. It is a unique place where God’s mercy, through the sacrament of reconciliation, is celebrated and full recovery is sought.

Within its walls, the innkeeper will also provide, when the traveler is strong enough, a meal – this is, of course, the Holy Eucharist, Christ’s resurrected Body and Blood, the divine remedy for the tired body and wounded soul, the strength we need to continue the journey - this time not down hill picking up speed, but on to the road that leads us up the hill towards the heavenly city. For all of us, it demands vigilance, a helping hand, and a sure and steady companion and guide along the way.

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