in Ordinary Time
A Homily - Cycle C - 2012-2013
by Rev. Luke Dundon
First Reading - Deuteronomy 30:10-14
Responsorial Psalm - Psalm 69:14, 17, 30-31, 33-34, 36, 37
Second Reading - Colossians 1:15-20
Gospel - Luke 10:25-37
Written to explain that
Christ came to save everyone.
There was a scholar of the law who stood up to test Jesus 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."
Well, this is a very special day. It’s likely the only time that I’ll get to preach here on the wonderful parable of the Good Samaritan. You see, the three Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke are each read over the Sundays covering a span of a three-year cycle. And since we have a great stained-glass window to use as a visual, and since the Story of the Good Samaritan comes from the Gospel of Luke, and since we are in the most auspicious year where we hear from the gospel according to St. Luke, this is a very special day. I hope you’re as excited as I am.
Now, it’s easy to let this message go in one ear and out the other. We all know the story of the Good Samaritan. We all know what happens. And yet we also know how challenging the story is. For one thing, we look at the characters Jesus has picked. A travel is beat up and left to die on the lonely and barren road to Jericho. But then a priest approaches! Aaaand, he keeps going. Same thing happens when a Levite passes by, the equivalent of a deacon. So a priest like myself and a deacon like Deacon Cong pass by, and we do . . . nothing! And then a Samaritan passes by, notices the man, and gives him every bit of care possible.
So WHY did Jesus choose these characters? Why did he choose a priest and Levite, clerics? Aren’t they the ones who are just perfect and pleasing to the Lord in everything they do. Well, we know here that’s not the case! Pope Francis commented on this a couple of weeks ago, when he said that “a tired, bored or indifferent Christian is an ugly sight. We need to ask ourselves, do we open ourselves to the Holy Spirit, so as to be an active part in our communities, or do we close ourselves in, saying, “I have so many things to do, that’s not my job.” The priest and the Levite forgot, every other JOB has meaning in view of the FIRST job, to love.
So, why did Jesus choose a Samaritan? We say, Good Samaritan. The Jews would NEVER have put the words “good” and “Samaritan” in the same sentence. The Samaritans were former Israelites who married with surrounding pagan tribes of the region. That betrayal was beyond comprehension to the Jews. So they were basically despised. Rejected. Looked down upon. And yet THIS was the type of person who most perfectly and appropriately acted in Jesus’ parable. THIS was the character who acted when no one else would. THIS was the one, according to the scholar of the law, “who showed mercy.” Here is a character who is culturally despised and rejected by his own spiritual cousins. He therefore knows the misery of being alienated from others. So his heart is immediately attuned to the misery of another who is left alone, and so his mercy HAS WEIGHT. And THAT is exactly what mercy is about.
For that’s where the “mercy” comes from, misericordia, to have a miserable or suffering heart with another, to compassionately share their pain and their suffering. Pope Francis also powerfully commented that a Church which has WOUNDS like our SAVIOR’S WOUNDS, is ready to go out and share God’s love with others who have wounds. I have found that in my first pastor. Yes, many years of experience, yes, smart man, yes, prayerful man, but I fund his SUFFERING to be amazing. For it beautifully ALLOWS him to reach out to others, and they are healed . . . and he doesn’t even drink coffee!
If we have a lot to deal with ourselves, if we have suffering in our histories and our lives, if we know what it means to be in a miserable state, if we’re WOUNDED, then we’re in a good place to offer mercy to another. Because we have a HEART that can connect with theirs, NOT to fix everything, but to BE with them.
Jesus speaks to us through St. John Chrysostom’s writing, “I am not saying to you, solve all my problems for me, give me everything you have, even though I am poor for love of you. I only ask for some bread and clothes, some relief for my hunger. I am in prison. I do not ask you to free me. I only wish, that for YOUR own good, you pay me a visit. That will be enough for me, and I in return will make you a gift of Heaven. I have freed you from a prison a thousand times more harsh. But I am happy if you come and visit me from time to time.”
It’s not a possibility. It’s a guarantee. By the end of this week, perhaps by the end of today, even while we barely balance everything going on in our lives, even while we struggle to get by, even while we carry our own crosses, we WILL run into those who are about to fall under theirs. They’re looking for help, they’re looking for love, they’re looking for a heart that they can connect with . . . they’re looking for a little MERCY. And we don’t have to look far . . . our parish, our neighborhood, our street . . . our home. So let’s continue to make this a VERY special day, and offer these people true mercy, NOT because we’re strong, but because we are suffering too . . . and as we walk with them, who knows, as we look into their face, the face that gazes back, may look a lot like His!