Neighbors Among Us

July 10, 2022 – 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Click here for the readings (https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/071022.cfm)

Once a man happened to fell on a rather deep manhole. He really had a hard time to escape from his difficult situation. So he called for help. It happened that a lawyer passed by, so the man shouted out: ‘Help’. The lawyer replied: ‘Sorry I cannot help you now. I’m on a hurry for a court hearing. Here is my calling card. Call me later and we will sue the company who dug this pit – Pro bono/ for free.’ And so the lawyer took off. Then a doctor came by, but said, ‘Hey, I cannot help you now since I have a scheduled operation. Here are some prescriptions for your bruises. I will call for help. Surely I will help you at the hospital.’ And then the doctor left. A priest also came and said, ‘Sorry, so, I cannot help you right now. My mass is about to start. Here is a rosary, pray till the rescue arrived. We will pray for you also.’ And the priest rushed off.

Now, the man got a lawyer’s calling card, a doctor’s prescription and a priest’s rosary, but still trapped in a manhole. Eventually his poor neighbor came, and right then and then, jumped into the pit. The man said to his neighbor, ‘How stupid you are. Now both of us are trapped in this pit’. Then replied the poor neighbor, ‘Yes, but I know a way out.’

Once again we hear the Lord’s commandment to Love the Lord our God and our neighbor as we love ourselves. However, based on our experience, this commandment to Love… are nice words to hear but hard to follow, especially on loving our neighbor as ourselves.

That is why, not satisfied knowing the commandment the teacher of the law raised the question: ‘And who is my neighbor?’ Like him, we know the commandment to love but we also like to know who is our neighbor worthy of our love.

In response to this question, Jesus told us the parable of the Good Samaritan. For Jesus, the neighbor who is worthy of our love is our immediate neighbor. The very person  we are with – in the here and now, is the very neighbors in your midst who we should love. We don’t need for someone absent and far to be our neighbor to love. But the very persons before and with us now, who need our help and love is our very neighbor we ought to love.

To help and love our neighbor, then, we don’t need to look for them somewhere. Just be aware and conscientious of the people around with you in the here and now, and respond lovingly as you can.

Once in our Redemptorist parish in Dumaguete,  we had a program where we give Christmas gifts to poor parishioners. What makes this program unique is that we arranged the gift-giving wherein the donors themselves go and visit the home of the poor beneficiaries nearby, and give their gifts. A donor once told me: ‘Many Thanks, Father! It is only now I become fully aware of the poverty of our neighbors nearby, especially of Nong Berto’s family who used to drive me to school when I was a little girl.’ Our neighbors worthy of our love are the very people amongst us nearby we immediately see, smell, feel and hear.

Through the parable, Jesus also teaches us the proper way to help our neighbor: Before we try to help others, we should immerse and be in solidarity with their difficult situation. In helping others, dole-outs, give-aways, and reaching-outs are not enough. We need to dive in, get wet or dirty along the way, and journey with them, to free one another from the situation.

The Samaritan is good because he fully involved himself in helping the needy. He knew the best way to respond because perhaps he was also once needy and in such worse situation himself. Like, the poor neighbor of our story can help the man because he may have been in the same situation before, but he knows a way out. Others (lawyer, doctor, priest or levites) cannot and was not able to help because they don’t want to be involved and they cannot sympathize because they were not in that situation before, and don’t know a way out. In other words, only swimmers can rescue a drowning person. So, love your immediate neighbor in your midst as lovingly as you can.

The Lord in our first reading however reminds us that: This command is not too mysterious and remote for you, not up in the sky nor across the sea. It is something near to you,  already in your mouths, and in your  hearts : you have only to carry it out.’ Meaning, we CAN love the Lord and our neighbor as ourselves because we are also loved by the Lord and our neighbor as ourselves.  We can love because we are loved by God and others. We can help and take care of our neighbor because we are also helped and taken care of by God and neighbor. We can rescue and save others because we are rescued and saved by God and others.

For us to inherit eternal life, God directs us to do what needs to be done: “Love your God and your neighbor as you love yourself.” So, let us do our part in Loving Him and our Neighbor, as He and our neighbor loved us since before, until now & may always be as ourselves. So Be it. Siya Nawa. Kabay pa. Amen.

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