Thoughts for The Week of July 10, 2016
15th Sunday in Ordinary Time
“And who is my neighbor (v 29).”
In this day and age, when the forces of evil are trying to make a negative imprint on our daily lives, when we can’t pick up a newspaper and read horror stories coming from all over the world, our first instinct might be to insulate ourselves from all this, retreat into our own internal “safe haven,” and become “loners.”
If this is the case, the concept of “neighbor” may not mean much to us anymore. But the question asked of Jesus by the Jewish scholar, even though it was meant to test Jesus, has far greater implications than it may have had for many years.
Jesus did not respond by giving a long, philosophical or sociologic answer to the scholar. As He had done so many times before, He told a story — the story of the Good Samaritan.
But the story was not as simple as it sounds. It had a much deeper implication for the Jewish scholar and it probably made him feel uncomfortable — representatives of his own Jewish people, who should have known better, a priest and a Levite (both high-level and influential) ignored their neighbor who needed help. Did they feel too superior and self-important to warrant their paying attention to his need?
To make matters worse (for the scholar), the individual who did help was a Samaritan, a people hated by the Jews because the Jews felt the Samaritans were not faithful adherents to Jewish laws and customs. As such, when Jesus told that the Samaritan was the only one who did anything to help the poor man who had been attacked by marauders, the scholar must have felt very uncomfortable. Was Jesus picking out this religiously inferior individual to be a role model?
The moral of Jesus’s story is that our neighbor is anyone in need, physically, morally, psychologically or in other ways. The “Samaritan” who helps can take many forms — old, young, rich, poor — the important factor is the inclination of the person’s heart, how much he/she cares for others.
So returning to my opening remarks about the state of today’s word, I would have to say the concept of “neighbor” takes on a new significance. There is still a need for us to reach out to people as difficult as that may seem. Jesus is saying we are all neighbors to each other and that is a lesson worth paying attention to.
God bless you. Rev. Joseph A. Emmanuel