15 Sunday of the Year C
Dt 40:10-14; Col 1:15-20; Lk 10:25-37
Introduction: This is a homily/Scripture reflection in a book, titled: ‘Every Week God Speaks We Respond’ Cycle C, intended to be published in the future by Reverend John Tran Binh Trong. It was published in Vietnamese in the US 2009 and republished in Viet Nam 2012. To keep the author’s writing style, this homily has not been edited and may not be by a hired hand.
However, if readers like to point out mistake(s) in spelling and grammar, it would be greatly appreciated by the author whose English is not his mother tongue and who did not live in the US until his adulthood. Passive sentences are used intentionally in this context to avoid using the first personal pronoun ‘I’ when applicable, that might be associated with any idea of egotism, in accord with the French saying, known as: ‘Le moi est haissable’ (The ego is detestable).
Realizing that a human being has a body, spirit and soul, a lawyer in today’s Gospel asked Jesus how to inherit everlasting life for his soul. Reading the Bible, we can find out that Jesus often responded to a question by asking another question, especially when someone asked a question in order to trap him.
The lawyer in today’s Gospel asked Jesus a question, not to trick him, but he wanted to know. However, Jesus also asked him a question, to make him aware of his duty toward God, and to find out an answer for him. The question Jesus asked is: What is written in the law (Lk 10:26)? The lawyer answered by quoting the Book of Deuteronomy: You shall love the Lord your God, with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with your entire mind (Lk 10:27). Then he continued by quoting the Book of Leviticus: You shall love your neighbor as yourself (Lk 10:27). Jesus told him his answer was correct. Somewhere else in the Gospels, Jesus told a lawyer about the two most important commandments of love for God and neighbor (Mt 22:37-39; Mk 12:30-31). However, the lawyer was not satisfied with the general and abstract answer. He wanted to see something specific, wanting to know who his neighbor was (Lk 10:29).
Jesus told him the parable of the Good Samaritan. The Samaritan applied God’s commandment of love by taking a risk to go and rescue the victim of robbers. He disregarded an animosity between the Jews and the Samaritans at that time so as to come to rescue the victim. His love urged him to bring the victim to an inn for treatment and to pay for its cost. At that time, the road from Jericho to Jerusalem was much used on big Jewish festivals when people had to go to Jerusalem to pray. However, this road was also dangerous because it was hilly, steep and winding. It was a hiding place for robbers to attack travelers .
Looking at the map, modern Jericho is found lying north of Jerusalem – the distance of about 23 miles. Yet it was recorded in the Gospel that a certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, instead of saying going up north from Jerusalem to Jericho. Checking the topography of the region, Jerusalem lies 2250 feet above the sea level, and Jericho lies 900 feet below the sea level . Therefore, it is also correct to say going down - downhill - from Jerusalem to Jericho.
The parable of the Good Samaritan meant to say that everyone is our neighbor, not just the people whom we know, or live with, or the people with whom we get along. Today’s parable tells us about a notion of universal fraternity. Fraternity, which we reserve for those whom we do not know, is part of Jesus’ commandment of love.
Individualism, indifference, inconvenience and selfishness tell us not to get involved in helping others in emergency. From what the Samaritan did in this parable, Jesus wants to tell us not to limit our love and works of charity to certain people such as relatives and friends. What the Samaritan did, Jesus told us to go and do the same (Lk 10:37).
We might think using the parable of the Good Samaritan to teach a lawyer a lesson would not be good policy because in those days, Jews and Samaritans disliked each other. Between them, there was something distant, even separating them. That was an animosity, mistrust and discrimination between the Jews and Samaritans. That was why when Jesus asked the Samaritan woman for water, she remarked sarcastically: You are a Jew. How can you ask a Samaritan, a woman, for a drink (Jn 4:9)?
Jesus was aware of that problem, yet he still taught the lesson of practical love, not concerning about regional ill feelings of the audience. We act like a priest and a Levite in today’s Gospel who ignored the victim’s need if we are concerned only about the vertical, the up and down relationship between God and each individual, at the expense of human beings.
There is another dimension in our Christianity: a horizontal relationship among God’s people as the scripture tells us: people are created in God’s image (Gen 1:27) and people redeemed by the blood of his Son Jesus (Mt 26:28). Our service to neighbor lacks foundation unless it is firmly built upon faith in Jesus, with the belief that God is present in our neighbor, and that to serve neighbor means to serve God indirectly.
We are called to serve our neighbor as a whole person: in body, soul and spirit. Faith and prayer must accompany serving our neighbor. Without faith and prayer, our service to our neighbor is only a social work or humanitarian work, not a charitable work, not a Christian action.
Prayer asking for our love to be shown in action:
Oh God, you are God of love.
Out of love, you created every human being and every creature.
Also out of love, you sent your only Son
to come down from heaven,
accepting suffering and cross to redeem humankind.
Teach me how to show our love in action
towards others out of faith and love. Amen.
John Trần Bình Trọng
. Trần Văn Kiệm. Kinh Thánh Tân Ước, Phiên Dịch & Diễn Nghĩa. New Orleans: Nhà In & Xuất Bản Thao Thức, 1995, p. 251.
. McKenzie, J. L. Dictionary of the Bible. Milwaukee: The Bruce Publishing Company, 1965, p. 425.