July 14, 2019 – 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time
From the Gospel of Luke (10:25-37)
There was a scholar of the law who stood up to test Jesus and said,
“Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
Jesus said to him, “What is written in the law?
How do you read it?”
He said in reply,
“You shall love the Lord, your God,
with all your heart,
with all your being,
with all your strength,
and with all your mind,
and your neighbor as yourself.”
He replied to him, “You have answered correctly;
do this and you will live.”
But because he wished to justify himself, he said to Jesus,
“And who is my neighbor?”
“A man fell victim to robbers
as he went down from Jerusalem to Jericho.
They stripped and beat him and went off leaving him half-dead.
A priest happened to be going down that road,
but when he saw him, he passed by on the opposite side.
Likewise a Levite came to the place,
and when he saw him, he passed by on the opposite side.
But a Samaritan traveler who came upon him
was moved with compassion at the sight.
He approached the victim,
poured oil and wine over his wounds and bandaged them.
Then he lifted him up on his own animal,
took him to an inn, and cared for him.
The next day he took out two silver coins
and gave them to the innkeeper with the instruction,
‘Take care of him.
If you spend more than what I have given you,
I shall repay you on my way back.’
Which of these three, in your opinion,
was neighbor to the robbers’ victim?”
He answered, “The one who treated him with mercy.”
Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”
I grew up in a community where neighbors know everybody. I have enjoyed playing and fighting with other kids. As kids, we were welcomed to take something to eat and even sleep no matter whose house would that be.
I have enjoyed very much my childhood when we have to make our own kites and toy cars, build our small houses, running around and getting hurt and dirty with other kids. Those days that I had were the foundation where I was able to relate and socialize with others. And most importantly, these early years of playtime and growing up of a child are the opportunities also where a child will develop his or her sense of responsibility, creativity and sensitivity to people around him or her.
That is why, we also find neighbors helping one another in times of need and sorrow and sharing their joys in times of abundance and blessing. We understand that our neighbor is someone who is close to us, somebody we know and someone we are familiar with. And we consider those outside this circle as strangers to whom we could easily show an indifferent attitude.
However, this kind of understanding of neighbor is being challenged today. This is what we have heard from the Gospel of Luke.
There was a lawyer who asked Jesus on how he would be able to attain eternal life. What he asked was not just actually about what lies after death but also of the present moment. Eternal life then means eternal joy and this joy can already be found now.
The lawyer knew the answer, that is why, he also answered his own question to Jesus. This joy can be attained by loving God and loving one’s neighbor. This love of God can only become concrete when a person also shows the same love to his or her neighbor. And so it means, that these two are inseparable.
But, the lawyer asked Jesus again and clarified, “who is my neighbor then?” And Jesus’ answer must have left the lawyer speechless. In the parable that Jesus gave, a neighbor is somebody who is in need regardless of the persons’ belief, culture, race or status.
This is the reason why the victim in the story was portrayed to be naked and unable to speak because he was half-dead. The person had no particular culture or race, or language or belief. The person then symbolizes anybody.
Moreover, a neighbor is also a person who responds to those in need. A neighbor is a person who feels the suffering and pain of the other and because of this, a neighbor is moved to extend help and assurance to that person in need. This is done out of generosity and kindness.
Thus, the priest and the Levite in the story who merely showed indifference to the dying person were not neighbors. Their fear of becoming unclean and not being able to enter the Holy Temple or perhaps fear to do something that it might be just a trap of the thieves, prevented them to extend their hands to the person. They must have surely felt pity for the victim but then they remained in the feeling and did not move into action.
That is why, to only feel pity for the person in need without changing anything from us, is empty. True pity leads to mercy which also leads to kindness, a generous action.
This is how we realize also that being a believer in God, your faith and my faith does not mean to be static or passive. Faith is not dependent on letters or traditional practices and rituals as shown by the priest and Levite. But faith is dynamic and pro-active because it is about a relationship. This is what the Samaritan showed.
Therefore, true faith builds relationship, friendship. It is sensitive and generates kindness, generosity, mercy and compassion. In other words, action!
Thus, Jesus invites us today that to attain eternal life or eternal joy is also to build relationship. The Samaritan despite the discrimination against him by the Jews as heretic, impure and lowly was able to build relationship by recognizing that victim as his neighbor. He did that because he recognized God in that person.
This is the invitation for us. We are called to accompany and mentor the young by inculcating in them the value of building and creating relationships. Our young people indeed need companions, friends and mentors who will assure them that they are not alone. We are able to do this when we also become a true neighbour to the young who will assure of them of our company, of our presence and friendship.
Today, one of the biggest difficulties of the young is the tendency to be lonely and alone. As a result, high rate of suicide among our young people is evident. Let our young people know and feel that they are not alone and that God and our community are much bigger than their problems and struggles. Each of us is called to be a companion and a friend and a neighbour of the young and of one another especially with those who are suffering for being abandoned, discriminated and oppressed.
This will only be possible when we also learn how to treat each other as neighbors, with love, understanding and compassion. Let our differences, biases, fears and hesitations go so that we will be able to express our faith in God actively and lively by becoming a true neighbor to the young and to whoever they are. Hinaut pa.
Jom Baring, CSsR