The Good Samaritan

Luke 10: 25-37
Gal 1:6-12 / Psa 111

Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
(Luke 10:36)

Where have I been, what have I done?
Have I stretched out a helping hand,
To be a neighbor to anyone,
Have I been a Good Samaritan?

On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus replied, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.” But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii, and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’ “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.” (Luke 10:25-37)

Reflection

Who is my neighbor? Surely that expert in the law must have been expecting Jesus to draw the line between the Chosen People, the Jews, and the outcasts, the Gentiles and Samaritans. His question belied his bias, and could well have sounded more like “Who is not my neighbor?” Our Lord was aware of this tension between the Jews and the non-Jews, having experienced rejection from the Samaritans Himself when He and His apostles were refused passage through a Samaritan village because they were on their way to Jerusalem (Luke 9:53). But instead of venting His ire on this ‘traditional enemy’ of His people, our Lord repaid them with kindness by using a Samaritan traveler as His parable’s example of a good, loving neighbor.

At the same time, His parable served to condemn the obsession of the priests and Levites of the time who preferred to remain ‘ritually clean’ by not touching (helping) a victim of robbers. We can picture the seething anger of the scribes and Pharisees who were listening to this parable. While Jesus was teaching them about what real love meant, they were nurturing hatred in their hearts. The Jews generally hated the Samaritans, and yet, ironically, the word “Samaritan” has become synonymous to a person who extends a helping hand to another out of love.

Jesus was not teaching a new doctrine about loving one’s enemy. As early as the days of the prophets, God had already taught His people how to love even their own enemies. In the book of Exodus, it says, “If you come across your enemy’s ox or donkey wandering off, be sure to take it back to him. If you see the donkey of someone who hates you fallen down under its load, do not leave it there; be sure you help him with it” (Ex 23:4-5). We also read in Proverbs: “If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you.” (Prov. 25:21-22)

Today’s Gospel is teaching us that we are all equal in the eyes of God, all children of a loving Father. If ever we are excluded from His fold, it is because we have chosen to exclude other people from our “neighborhood”. Let us all practice being a Good Samaritan to all who need our help, regardless of their tribe, education, social standing, or religious belief.

Father God, help us to follow the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ faithfully, that we may never be prejudiced against others who do not share our values or beliefs. Your love is never selective, showing us that we must be a neighbor to all, especially to those who need our help. This we ask for the glory of Your kingdom. Amen.

One Response to “The Good Samaritan”

  1. Victor S E Moubarak  on October 6th, 2014

    Sadly not many Good Samaritans in this day and age of busy lifestyles.

    God bless.