Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
“And who is my neighbor?
That is a question that is on the lips of so many today, as it was on the lips of the scholar of the law who wished to justify himself before Jesus. Who is my neighbor? Is it my friend, or the person who lives next door? Is it my relative, close or distant, who I am tied to by bonds of blood or marriage? Is it my fellow citizen, or my co-worker, or my playmate? Is it the person that I am comfortable with, who is like me in many ways?
Our world is huge and yet it seems very crowded. Our world is sophisticated and progressive and yet we are so often base and crude and restrictive in our acceptance of others, especially the stranger and the alien. We speak of a world community and yet we are fragmented into our own little worlds.
We have possessed the message of Jesus for over two thousand years of our existence. We brag about Christian values being at the heart of our core values, being the very fabric of the majority f our society. And yet we have found great difficulty in hearing and accepting the message of Jesus that all are created equal … all are loved equally by God … and that our love of God and of each other must be total and unreserved.
Our Gospel from the 10th chapter of Luke is the story of the Good Samaritan. A man fell victim to robbers in his travel, Jesus tells us. He is beaten, stripped and left for dead. A priest passes by, and then a Levite, and both pass up the man without helping. Ritual purity and other factors may have come into play at their lack of action.
But then came a Samaritan man who the scriptures say “was moved with compassion”. I read somewhere that this translation may be a bit “soft” … that a better translation was that it was like he was “punched in the gut” at his compassion for the man who was robbed and left for dead. This Samaritan, this “second class” follower of Abraham, was the one to respond. He responded without hesitation to the law that called for a love of God and love of neighbor which was already written on his heart and practiced in his life. He becomes for us the example, the model of authentic love.
The parable of the good Samaritan gives us the image of that authentic love of neighbor that encompasses all who are in need, and it demands action in response.
The challenge of outcasts and the unwanted, the poor and the needy, migrants and displaced persons, and those persecuted can be met with the law of the Lord which is rooted in love. When we allow ourselves to be “wrenched in our guts”, to be “moved with compassion”, then we may find ways to meet the challenges of our time.
Until then, we will continue to justify ourselves be asking the question: “Who is my neighbor?”
By: Father Leonard Stoviak, Retired Priest of the Diocese of Greensburg