In the Gospel Reading for today (Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C), we heard the parable of the Good Samaritan:
There was a scholar of the law who stood up to test him and said,
“Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
Jesus said to him, “What is written in the law?
How do you read it?”
He said in reply,
“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.”
He replied to him, “You have answered correctly;
do this and you will live.”
But because he wished to justify himself, he said to Jesus,
“And who is my neighbor?”
“A man fell victim to robbers
as he went down from Jerusalem to Jericho.
They stripped and beat him and went off leaving him half-dead.
A priest happened to be going down that road,
but when he saw him, he passed by on the opposite side.
Likewise a Levite came to the place,
and when he saw him, he passed by on the opposite side.
But a Samaritan traveler who came upon him
was moved with compassion at the sight.
He approached the victim,
poured oil and wine over his wounds and bandaged them.
Then he lifted him up on his own animal,
took him to an inn, and cared for him.
The next day he took out two silver coins
and gave them to the innkeeper with the instruction,
‘Take care of him.
If you spend more than what I have given you,
I shall repay you on my way back.’
Which of these three, in your opinion,
was neighbor to the robbers’ victim?”
He answered, “The one who treated him with mercy.”
Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.” (Lk 10:25-37)
Jesus spoke the parable in answer to a conversation that He was having with one of the scholars of the Torah, who was concerned about what he ought to do to inherit eternal life.[Incidentally, contrary to Luther’s notion of “Sola Fide”, when the man asked Jesus the question, He did NOT answer by saying: “Silly man...don’t you know that you can’t DO anything to inherit eternal life...you are saved by faith alone”. Rather, Jesus’ response to this man is evidence that we are not saved by faith alone; but rather that we are saved by faith AND works].
After correctly answering that the way to inherit eternal life is through love of God and neighbour, the man asked Jesus “Who is my neighbour?” Jesus answered his question through the parable of the Good Samaritan; and then instructed the man to go and do the same.As I was listening to the Gospel Reading in the Mass this morning, I looked up at the Crucifix and it occurred to me that the parable of the Good Samaritan is ultimately a parable of the Cross.
We see that it is a parable of the Cross of Christ when we realise that the man attacked by the robbers is an image of fallen mankind. W have been mortally wounded by sin and left destitute on the side of the spiritual highway to die in our trespasses and sins. But it is Christ who, like a Samaritan (despised and rejected by men – Isa 53:3), comes to our aid, heals our wounds, and pays our way with His own Blood. In this way, He shows His love for His Heavenly Father by resigning Himself to the Father’s will (Lk 22:42). In the selfsame act of obedience, He also shows His love for us – made His neighbours through the Incarnation – in that He laid down His life for us (Jn 15:13).But Christ’s Cross is not the only one that is referred to in this parable. We see a glimpse of another cross in Jesus’ words “Go and do likewise” (Lk 10:37). The second cross is our own, which Jesus tells to pick up daily if we want to be His disciples (Matt 16:24). In taking up our own cross every day, we show our love for God and our neighbour by denying ourselves and giving ourselves instead to God’s will, and sacrificially giving ourselves to the service of others – firstly those closest to us (our families, our fellow-parishioners, and our work colleagues); and also to others that God might place in our path every day.
So, as we hear the parable of the Good Samaritan, may our desire be to imitate our Good Shepherd in loving God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength; and loving our neighbour as ourselves. We do this when we unite ourselves with Him in His Crucifixion – when we die to ourselves and live for God and our neighbour.