Fifteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time C: July 10, 2022
Luke 10: 2-37
Fr. John Tran
Who is my neighbor? A simple question, to which I am sure the scholar of the law expected a simple answer. But he did not get it. It is difficult for us to feel today the shock that Jesus’ listeners felt to the answer Jesus gave. For us, it would go something like this:
A Catholic man had traveled to Rome and was attacked by muggers, who beat him up, robbed him, and left him for dead. A priest came along on his way to the Vatican to take part in an important Mass and was late, so he passed the injured man by. Likewise did a choir director who was late for the same service. Some one else would take care of this.
Then along came a Muslim man who had pity and stopped to give first aid. He went out of his way to take the injured man to a hospital offering his own money to get him admitted.... You see what I mean. That would be an something that would get our attention quickly indeed.
But that is not so different from some other stories I have heard that happened in real life. Not too long ago, I was reminded that after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 in New Orleans, many people were trying to get into the Superdome to find shelter and relief. They violently pushed and injured others so that they would be taken first. A group of Catholic Vietnamese quietly prayed their rosaries and asked that others be taken first. Or, there was the example in 2006, when the Amish community in Pennsylvania publicly forgave the gunman who had killed 5 Amish schoolgirls. More recently we have heard of Churches or Synagogues being physically attacked by violent people, and the members of those congregations have offered forgiveness to their attackers. Who is my neighbor?
When we hear “Good Samaritan” our hearts are warmed by the gentle kindness of that man so long ago in the gospel who went out of his way to help someone who was down and out. When Jesus’ listeners heard “Samaritan,” they felt at least disgust if not outright hatred. Strong hostility existed between the Jews and Samaritans. They didn’t live together, pray together, or even communicate. A Centuries-long standoff kept the two groups apart. Jesus is saying that the one you hate, the one you think is no good, may be the one who will someday save you. Or, you might be that same hated person in some another person's eyes. Who, indeed, is my neighbor, we might ask, when the person involved is not just a warm and fuzzy story.
In a way, Jesus is describing himself as a Good Samaritan for the human race. Jesus is also showing us how to behave when we are labeled an outsider, and he is humbling those who label others as good or bad. Finally, Jesus is calling us as his followers to communion, mutual forgiveness, and personal service to the one in need, even one who may seem not to be someone we want to get involved with. We fail in this too often even right in the place we live.
This Sunday, how can I forgive, serve and come into communion with an outsider? How can I expand on who I see as my neighbor?