Gospel and Homily Notes by Archbishop Joseph Harris, C.S. Sp
Gospel: Luke 10:25-37
There was a scholar of the law who stood up to test him 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?” Jesus replied,“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.”
It is a known fact that talking the talk is very easy; walking the talk however is at times not as easy. In fact it can be very difficult. That is why St. Paul tells us: “but I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.” 1 Cor. 9, 27.
In the gospel passage given to us this weekend for our meditation, we have an example of how easy it is to talk the talk but how difficult to walk the talk. The Gospel story we know very well. Jesus is being tested by a scholar of the law who asks him what is necessary for getting to heaven. Jesus replies by asking him “What is written in the law? How do you read it?”
When the scholar replies by giving the correct answer; 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 neighbour as yourself.” Jesus replied to him, “You have answered correctly; do this and you will live.” In other words Jesus tells him; You have talked the talk now walk the talk.
The scholar however is not interested in the very practical advice of Jesus. He still wants to best him and so tries to pull Jesus into a philosophical argument about the neighbour.
Jesus refuses to get into any such discussion. He keeps the exchange on the very practical level by giving the parable of the man who has fallen into the hands of robbers. Jesus shows through this very practical teaching how easy it is for prejudices and liturgical laws to keep us from fulfilling the moral and ethical demands of God’s law. The priest and the Levite knew that by touching a corpse they would incur ritual impurity and would have to return to Jerusalem which they had just left after probably having offered sacrifice but now as penitents seeking ritual purification like so many of the poor and they would not take that risk. It was left to a Samaritan who was himself running a risk by touching the sick man who would also become ritually unclean because of this and who would probably not thank him for his kindness, to do what was necessary to alleviate the sufferings of the man beaten by the bandits.
So often in life it all seems so clear to us. We know in our bones what must be done. In the first reading of the Eucharistic celebration of this weekend, we are told that we must obey the voice of the Lord and that “it is very near to you, it is in your mouth and in your heart for your observance”
Like the lawyer, we see the law so simply drawn: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with your entire mind, and your neighbour as yourself.” However, living this in the many opportunities presented to us each day is the problem. There are so many items on our personal agendas that we often set and act upon priorities which are not in accord with the injunction “to love the neighbour as oneself” or according to St. John, “to love the neighbour as Christ loved us.” The Gospel story tells us that right priorities come about not because of the important positions that we may or may not hold, not because of religious or cultic obligations that we may have to attend to, but rather through listening to God’s Word which is in our hearts for our observance.
Like the scholar of the Law, because we do not let God’s Word instruct and form us, we repeat each day in so many ways the same question; “and who is my neighbor?” The accident victim who needs to be taken to hospital? The vagrant who is always asking for money and refuses food; the sick person who always comes to this parish office instead of going to the parish where he resides. And there are many reasons not to stop to help the accident victim; I may get sued. Others will come to help. I’m in a hurry. In other instances we think; the poor wretch should have planned for disaster. Charity begins at home etc. How well I know the excuses, myself a bishop. It was such as I who passed the broken man on the road to Jericho. And I have done the same.My seeming inability to be a neighbour is hard to reconcile with my professed desire to follow Christ. Yet one of the lessons of the parable is that I find a neighbour in the measure that I become one.
This is the lesson which all the saints learned so well. John Bosco became neighbour to so many young boys on the streets and in so doing found so many friends. Mother Teresa of Calcutta became neighbour to so many sick and dying on the streets of Calcutta and found an army of children. Archbishop Pantin became neighbour to all the poor of Port of Spain and became their father. You and I are called to do no less
All powerful and ever-loving God, we thank you for the lessons of this Gospel. As we live in this world which has lost its gentleness and kindness, help us who call ourselves after the name of your Son to come to a true love of all humanity so that in whatever situation we find ourselves we will be able to show the mercy and compassion which is the characteristic of the Christian person. Help us Lord to walk the talk always. We ask this through the intercession of Mary our mother and your Son Jesus, Amen