• 15th Sunday C

    Posted on July 7, 2019 by in Reflections on Sunday Gospels

    Boundary Breaking Jesus.

    Introduction:  Our Gospel continues our journeying with Jesus.  The first part of the Gospel this Sunday is an introduction to both this Sunday’s Gospel and next Sunday’s.  Luke gives us two examples of what it means to be a disciple.  This Sunday’s Gospel is the example of a man, next Sunday’s is the example of a woman.  The Good Samaritan lives out the command to love our neighbor.  Next Sunday offers us an example of a woman who lives out the command to love God entirely.

    Homily:  This parable is a dramatic example of the boundary breaking aspect of Jesus’ life and teaching.  To understand its shocking content we must understand something of the hatred between Jews and Samaritans.  In the 8thCentury BC when the Northern part of Israel was conquered, many of the inhabitants were deported, particularly those of upper classes.  Non Jews came to this area and intermarried with the Jews.  The Jews of the Southern part of Israel viewed the Samaritans as half Jews.   (John Donahue’s THE GOSPEL IN PARABLE, p. 130)  “After the Babylonian exile the Samaritans had opposed the restoration of Jerusalem and in the second Century BC had helped the Syrian rulers in their wars against the Jews.  In Sirach (50:25-26), about 200 BC the Samaritans are called ‘no nation’, and in 128 BC the Jewish high priest burned the Samaritan temple on Mt. Gerizim.  In the early first century AD the Samaritans scattered the bones of a corpse in the temple during Passover, defiling the temple and preventing the celebration of the feast.  In John 8:48 the Jews assume that Jesus is a Samaritan and demon possessed (cf. John 4:7-10) and in the mission charge in Matthew, Jesus tells the disciples to avoid Samaritan territory.”

    In the parable that Luke gives us he sets up a rhythm:  when the Priest saw him he passed by on the opposite side, when the Levite saw him hepassed by on the opposite side, when the Samaritan comes upon him (and here he breaks the rhythm with a strong Greek word) he was moved with compassion at the sight. 


    The priest and levite may have been conflicted by the demands of the book of Leviticus: 1) touching a dead body made one unclean (Lev. 21:1-2) and 2) the command to “love of neighbor” (Lev. 19:18)  It was easy for the priest to pass by  not wanting to become unclean, the same for the Levite.  The people would have been expecting that the next person to pass by would be a Jewish layman.  Here is the shocker, it’s a Samaritan.  He would have known the law from the book of Leviticus about not touching a dead body.  But seeing the person in need, the Samaritan moves into action.  He defiles himself by touching what may be a corpse.  He then pours oil and wine over his wounds and bandages them.  He shows genuine mercy and compassion.  All three saw the same scene, only the Samaritan sees in such a way that leads to doing mercy.

    We must remember that this parable is Jesus’ answer to the question: WHO IS MY NEIGHBOR? In an article titled “What must a Christian do for the helpless?” the author first lists a number of Jesus’ encounters with “helpless”.

    But then the post takes a distinct turn:

    Lately, I keep seeing public Catholics spending alarming amounts of time posting about how the economic migrant and his daughter who drowned in the Rio Grande recently were at fault. They ought to have stayed where they were, and not attempted such a treacherous crossing. I have seen people accusing the man of criminal negligence or homicide, mulling it over aloud and trying to think of the worst thing they can accuse him of doing. This is just another example of a pattern I see in many people who call themselves Catholic and write online. The same type of people will try to tell you that poor people are at fault for not budgeting their grocery money properly. And they portray this as somehow a Catholic viewpoint. They even call it Catholic Apologetics.

    To me, that’s the most unbecoming thing a Catholic can do. It flies in the face of everything we profess. It’s a blasphemy that mocks our faith and our God. It’s anti-Catholic and anti-Christ. It’s an anti-apologetic for our faith.

    We’re all at fault.

    The important thing is to look upon a person in trouble, be moved with compassion as Christ was, and do as Christ did. Heal. Rescue. Speak out on behalf of the helpless.

    The post is worth reading in its entirety: Link:What Must a Christian do for the Helpless?

    Notice the dynamics in the story: The Samaritan makes up for the priest by giving the man a ride;  he makes up for the Levite, by binding the wounds; he makes up for the robbers: they rob, he pays for him; they leave him dying, he leaves him taken care of; they abandon him, he promises to return.  The Samaritan makes up for the sins of neglect and the sins of violence.

    We can look for meaning in this parable from the different people.

    St. Augustine proposed this parable as an example to us of God’s love for us: Jesus is the Samaritan and we are the wounded person.

    Many of the people of Jesus time would have identified with the man victimized by the robbers and left for dead.  It is from this “view from the ditch,” that the parable invites us to see a hated enemy as the merciful face of God.  The parable advances that for some it is only possible to accept this message after having reached the depths of need, having been stripped of all of one’s own resources.  We can receive the graciousness of God from those least expected, from the outcast.  It often comes amid powerlessness.

    We are to be Good Samaritans.  We are to have hearts of flesh, compassionate vision (visions of compassion that lead to actions of compassion).  To fulfill the command to love God and neighbor one must often become the Samaritan, the outsider, taking a risk in a hostile world.  The Samaritans reaction reveals a vivid insight into the elements of love:  awareness, compassion, responsiveness, self sacrifice and efficient help.

    The question for us:  who is hurting that we know of?  What is God asking of me with regard to that person?  Am I being called to risk?

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