SUNDAY’S READINGS | July 10, 2022
A lawyer asked Jesus, “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus asked the man what is written in the law. He replied, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind and your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10:27). Responding as if the man had passed a brief exam, Jesus said, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live” (Luke 10: 28). The right answer is often the easiest part. Acting upon and living out the call to love God and neighbor is quite another matter, requiring total commitment, searching discernment, and constant divine assistance. Just as we do not know how to pray as we ought, we do not know how to love God as we ought, nor our neighbor as we should.
Helping us to understand neighbor love, Jesus tells a story in which love, as life-saving assistance, is given by a person the victim would not otherwise choose. A man is going down from Jerusalem to Jericho. He falls into the hands of robbers, who strip him, beat him, and leave him for half-dead. A priest first and then a Levite, walking along the road, see the man and pass him by. “But a Samaritan while traveling came upon him, and when he saw him he was moved with compassion. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, treating them with oil and wine. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him; and when I come back I will repay you whatever more you spend’” (Luke 10:33-35).
The man left half-dead is, we may presume, Jewish, and the Samaritan who rescues him is, as his religion taught, a “bearer of the true faith of ancient Israel as expounded by Moses and as practiced at Mt. Gerizim in ancient times” (Harper’s Bible Dictionary). The Samaritan practiced a religion similar to that of the Jews, yet different in notable ways, not least in the claim to be bearers of the true faith of Israel. As is well known, religions that are similar but different are notorious for engendering suspicion and conflict. And so, when Jesus asked a Samaritan woman for a cup of water, she asked him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” (John 4:9). An explanatory note follows: “Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.” Jews and Samaritans do not touch each other!
The Samaritan man walking along the road to Jericho and seeing the injured man is moved with compassion. In a sense, this is not so much a story about religion as it is about one common and renewed humanity. The Samaritan provides all possible assistance, and the injured man has no choice but to accept it passively. In this story, the neighbor is not someone we love but someone by whom we are loved, and we decide nothing about who helps us and how we are helped. The Samaritan man is “the gospel that has come to you” (Col. 1:5-6). We can almost see the Samaritan man working in persona Christi: “You did not choose me, but I chose you” (John 15:16). It is precisely this unexpected compassion, and all practical help freely given, that inspires real love. “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19).
Look It Up: Luke 10:30
Think About It: He whom you don’t expect comes at an hour you don’t expect.