WHO IS MY NEIGHBOR?

July 10, 2022 – 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time

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

I grew up in a community where people 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, the early years of playtime and growing up as 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.

This kind of development in us is being nurtured within the environment where we are in. In this case also, we understand that our neighbors play a vital role in our everyday life. Our encounter and everyday exchange of gifts, stories and even quarrels and gossips make as animated and alive.

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.

And so let us explore now the invitation for us this Sunday through our Gospel.

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 that being a believer of 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 relationships. 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.  This was how the Samaritan extended his hands for the man who was in pain and suffering. His hands provided comfort and healing to the person. His presence became an assurance and security for the victim of abuse and crime. He did all those not because he was after some recognition or reward. He extended his hands and went beyond what was expected of him because he cognized the man as a person in need of help and healing and because he recognized God in that person.

This is how Paul in his letter to the Colossians reminds us too that Jesus is the very image of the invisible God. As the Good Samaritan recognized God in the person of the victim and the suffering man, we too are called to recognize Jesus, the image of the invisible God among our brothers and sisters.

And so for this Sunday, there are three take-aways that I want you to remember and to bring with you at home.

First, make our faith alive. We have realized that faith is not limited with our memorized prayers, traditional religious practices and Sunday obligations. Faith is a way of life for us Christians that allows us to build relationships with God and with our neighbors. Let us not make our faith become stagnant and passive. Make our Christian faith alive by generating kindness and generosity, love, compassion and mercy.

Second, touch to bring healing. As the Good Samaritan took the risk and the time to touch and bring healing to the man in pain, let our touch bring healing as well to people around us. Let not our touch be a cause of pain and suffering to others like what the robbers did to the man. Their touch was oppressive, cruel and abusive. Rather, let us make our touch become a source of healing and comfort by being gentle and kind.

Third, be a neighbor. This is what Jesus is trying to tell us today that our very presence with one another will also become a source of support and understanding not judgment, be a source of comfort not gossip and intrigue, be a source of solidarity and empathy not indifference and to be a source of life and joy in our community and not of abuse, corruption and death. Kabay pa.

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