In the First Reading this weekend, we hear the story of Moses reminding people that Yahweh’s Commandments are not written in some secret place they need to find—but, instead— they are already ‘stored’ in the fibers of their heart. When many people look at the last seven commandments today, they see this list as common-sense rules to live by if you are planning to get along with other people.
In the Gospel Reading today, Jesus elevates his listeners to move beyond Yahweh’s Ten ‘Commandments’ to the next level in relationships and service.
As Jesus continues his journey to Jerusalem, he is confronted by a law scholar who wants to test him. In Luke's Gospel, the lawyer asks what we must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus asks him “What is written in the Law?” “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.” (Deut.6:5/Levitus)
In Mark and Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus answers that question. This particular verse (said twice a day) is one of the most important prayers in Judaism. Love of God and love of neighbor are what is required for eternal life…
The parable: The narrow- rocky road from Jerusalem to Jericho descends 3,300 feet in just 17 miles. Luke uses ‘a certain man’ in his parables so that the listener or reader, Jew or Gentile, could identify with the man. After the deadly attack, the man is left bleeding/ naked on the road.
A Jewish priest comes by… moved to the other side of the road. A Levite priest from the Temple comes by… moves to the other side of the road. Neither priest checked the body. A third person comes by—a Samaritan. The Samaritan not only goes over to the injured man— but cleans his wounds, puts him on his own animal, takes him to an inn to recover, and promises to pay all his expenses.
Samaritans were descendants of Jews from the northern part of the country who had intermarried with former Gentile conquerors and other Assyrian captives. Southern Israelites hated the northern Samaritans because ‘they’ were not ‘pure-blood’ and many had accepted parts of the conqueror’s religions. Simply stated: Jesus says there are no boundaries/ expectations on who we are to love/help. No social classifications such as class, religion, gender, or ethnicity determines who our neighbor is. So—when Jesus asks the lawyer who was the ‘neighbor’ in this story—the law scholar can't bring himself to give credit to a Samaritan. All he could say was: “the one who treated him with mercy.” And Jesus' said: “Go and do likewise.” What stops us?
Deo Gratias, Barbara Harrison
(Loyolapress.com & Barbara M. Harrison)I