Date: Sunday, July 10, 2022
Our bus pulled into Jericho. We got out to look at a very large sycamore tree. I remember empty glass Coke bottles tossed near the trunk. The guide said it is the tree which Zacchaeus climbed to see Jesus. I was skeptical. Our bus continued the ride into Jerusalem. At the time of Jesus the road was called “Way of Blood” – blood shed by brigands and bandits!
In our Gospel, a “scholar of the law” stands to question Jesus, “Teacher what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus, like a good teacher, elicits the correct answer from one who asks it. “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” The scholar of the law, cites two commandments and combines them, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, your being, your strength, and your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus replies, “You have answered correctly, do this and you will live.” Typical of a lawyer, he asks Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?” Rather than debating Mosaic Law, Jesus tells the parable known by the first words of the story, “A man fell victim to robbers” or more commonly, “The Good Samaritan.”
A man is stripped, beaten, and left to die on the side of the road from Jerusalem to Jericho. A priest walks by, notices the victim, and passes on the opposite side of the road. Likewise a Levite comes down the road, sees the man, and passes by. But a Samaritan traveler sees the victim, is moved with pity, gives immediate first aid, takes him to an inn, cares for him, and then promises to return and pay the innkeeper for any added expenses.
The scholar of the law and others who are listening to the parable are undoubtedly surprised that Jesus makes a Samaritan the hero of the tale especially considering the inhospitality Jesus and his disciples have experienced journeying through Samaria. Jews and Samaritans don’t like each other. There is bad blood and mistrust.
After telling the parable, Jesus asks the scholar of the law, “which of these three, in your opinion, is neighbor to the robber’s victim?” He answers, “The one who treats him with mercy.” The parable of the Good Samaritan calls us to embrace a vision of faith that sees every man, woman, and child as our neighbor. Jesus challenges his disciples to look beyond what divides us from one anther to what unites us. God is our Father. We are God’s children. Every day we encounter people who are left at the side of the road stripped of their human dignity. It is amazing what a gesture of kindness can do. Compassion is not simply a feeling but a “suffering with.” It translates itself into self-giving that takes risks. We can understand the priest and Levite walking by out of concern for ritual purity at the Temple or because of fear and caution that the robbers are hiding, waiting for them to stop. Not everyone is willing or able to become involved. Compassion leads where we may not expect or want to go. Compassion is the key to eternal life.