July 10, 2016 - 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church
OT 15 C 2016
In asking the question “Who is my neighbor?”, the lawyer is attempting to limit the number of people who are considered as neighbors. He is attempting to limit the amount of goodwill he is obligated to show.
In telling the story of the Good Samaritan, Jesus is making it clear that all people are to be considered as neighbors. Jesus resists any attempt to limit those who are entitled to our goodwill.
With Jesus, everyone is my neighbor. Everyone is entitled to be treated with respect and dignity.
In our ever increasingly violent society, this is becoming more and more difficult. Everyone is now considered a suspect rather than a neighbor. We cannot even let our children play unsupervised in the neighborhood anymore.
What is it like to be black parents having to watch their kids head out the door each day? What is it like to be a wife and mother who watches her police officer head off to work every day?
All Muslims are not radicalized. All Hispanics don’t belong on the other side of a wall. All cops don’t use excessive force. And gays shouldn’t be killed for kissing.
How have we come to this?
Even saying #alllivesmatter might not be the right thing to say. Maybe we are focused on the wrong things. We are focused on what divides us, rather than what unites us.
As society becomes more unstable, it also becomes more racist. It becomes a place filled with hate. And the hate turns into violence and the violence becomes terror.
In essence, it becomes more and more like the road from Jerusalem to Jericho, a place where robbers take advantage of the vulnerable.
This new reality makes Jesus’ parable all the more challenging. In the story, the ones who were supposed to show mercy do not, while the one who is under no obligation whatsoever is the one who acts with compassion and renders assistance.
Jewish ears would have been shocked to hear Jesus say that a Samaritan stopped to aid the victim. Samaritans were regarded as enemies, and yet here is a Samaritan who is a good guy.
It is the Samaritan who behaves like a loving neighbor while the priest and the Levite who were supposed to be examples of right living passed up the opportunity to show love. They passed up the opportunity to be good neighbors.
In addition, the Samaritan's compassion comes with a cost. He now has to walk rather than ride his mule. He is now vulnerable to attack himself because his travel is now much slower, more labored.
He has also made financial payment to the innkeeper to look after the victim. And finally, he runs the risk of being ostracised by his own people for assisting a Jew.
Today it would be the black man who stops to render aid to the white police officer who has been shot. It would be the gay boy who offers help to the school bully who finally got a taste of his own medicine.
It would be the Palestinian family who donates their teenage son’s organs to an Israeli family. It would be the woman who offers assistance to the Muslim man who does not think she is entitled to education or social standing.
It’s not enough to say #blacklivesmatter or #copslivesmatter or even #alllivesmatter, because this allows us to continue focusing on what divides us. This allows us to continue to act like the lawyer in the gospel saying, “This person cannot possibly be my neighbor.”
Love matters. Mercy matters. Compassion matters. Kindness matters.
We are challenged to change our hearts. But that is not enough. We are challenged to try to begin seeing the inherent dignity in each and every human being. And upon seeing that God-given dignity, to learn to call that person neighbor.
And in calling that person neighbor, to render assistance, kindness, charity, compassion and mercy whenever possible.