July 11, 2010
The Sixth Sunday after Trinity
Intent: Steadfast Service
“For I was hungry, and you gave me food, thirsty and you gave me drink; I was a stranger, and you brought me home, naked, and you clothed me, sick and you cared for me, a prisoner, and you came to me.”
Our Gospel reading today speaks of the well known “Good Samaritan”. The parable of the Good Samaritan is the epitome of the verse I just read. The poor soul left on the side of the road after being attacked, fits into each of the descriptions Jesus’ names that we should help. Some would say, ‘yeah, except that of prisoner’. I would disagree. The stranger on the side of the road left beaten is a prisoner to his fate; the fate of being left for dead until the Good Samaritan arrives.
Today we live in a society with a strange mixture of material prosperity all the while we have a tremendous amount of inner and mental discontent. Inner discontent and unhappiness is caused by our trying to fit infinite into finite. As we get closer to the fire of our own desires, we feel the heat. As we get closer to infinite of that which we were made, our true joy begins to take over.
We live in a suspicious society today. We question the motives of everything and everyone. If we lost our cell phone or our wallet and someone were to find it, and they were to locate us, we may be asked by the finder, “How much is it worth to you?” Everything has a price, many would say. Most theologians would say that this finder of our wallet or phone is not a “Good Samaritan”. Some would disagree and say that they indeed are, because they found the item and offered it back to them. However, the key here is that a price was put on returning the found item.
Jesus wants us to see, in the parable of the Good Samaritan, that prices cannot and should not be placed on our love and charity for our fellow human beings. Material prosperity has become too much of the deciding factor in our lives. Today’s Gospel reading raises the question of love and how far we must go. Jesus tells us that we must go the distance, no matter how far and wide. A price cannot be placed on the acts of charity and grace in His name. Settling for some temporal security does not satisfy the soul. Our souls were not made for here; they were made for God.
Jesus’ huge commandment of love is not impossibly far beyond us, because his own life manifests for us how to live loving relationships with others. The underlying message of the Gospel today is the two great commandments of loving God and neighbor. Jesus is telling the lawyer in His presence, that we should give up personal gain for the good of another.
As humans, we tend to feel suffering a great deal. As we grow, we gain a greater capacity for pain and suffering. If we go to the dentist, and we feel that if he drills five minutes more, we would not be able to stand it any further. If he drills far enough, he may hit oil it would seem. Yet, we are still in the chair and he is still drilling far beyond where we thought he could go no further. Difficulties and pain seem to last forever. Pleasures, on the other hand, need so much more stimuli to help the pleasure last; because we have grown to want more and more.
The lawyer questions Jesus, with a very important question, but the lawyer is not really sincere in the question; he is only testing Jesus. Jesus, however, takes the question for what it is and answers it. Jesus gives the lawyer the all embracing answer that will help us inherit eternal life. We must love God and neighbor, and make these forms of love, our main focus in life. Oh, how scary it is when we think over our own lives and try to see where we have done this on a monthly, weekly or daily basis; fore we will find we really have not done so nearly enough.
Our challenge is to go the test of distance; to go as the Good Samaritan went. The Good Samaritan was obviously not a on a leisurely stroll. Most certainly he had an agenda and some place to be. He had objectives to accomplish with a time-frame to make. However, he stops and helps this wounded man. Whatever the reason for his trip may be, he puts it on hold to help this victim of pain and suffering. He uses his means of transportation and walks instead. He uses what supplies he has as first aid. He uses his hard earned currency. He uses his own self. His inconvenience becomes his pleasure.
To go the distance, has no limits, as Jesus himself illustrated in his own life. He loved us, even to the point of death for us. Our loving each other must too go this far. How so many of our service men and women do this every day in the various conflicts now going on in the world. Many lose their life, so that we may have all that we have here. They are scared, I am sure, but not to the point that they take the other side of the road. This kind of boundless love redefines who our neighbor really is and sets no limits on our time and care for others. Further, we show our love for God, when we go the distance for someone around us.
How ironic it may seem, that we gain eternal life by dying to our very self for the sake of another. The Samaritan, long perceived as a Non-Jew, and thus held by no specific standard or law, does not help the victim out of a sense of fulfilling a commandment obligation; he helps him out of pure loving compassion and mercy. It is only by going this far, that we can be examples to others. It is only by going this far, that we can live up to the commandments as they were laid out before us by our God.
Society today has lost the sense of biblical and religious obligation. Liturgical churches are dwindling in many areas, while non-denominational ones grow. This is good and bad. Good, that those who have chosen to leave a more traditional church have found a different church home. Bad, because we have lost the sense of obligation to rules and commandments. I do not mean to say that these other churches teach watered down Christianity, only that they do so in a non-formal way. Judaism, Catholicism and some mainline Protestant denominations still teach a specific way of worship; they still teach a specific way of living.
In society and church today, we need to become more aware of the value of keeping laws. We specify certain times of the year that we should attend mass. We specify certain acts of faith that we would do well to participate. We have various Sacraments that should be taken part of at some point in life or even daily or weekly. No church is perfect, as it is made up of humans. However, sometimes we simply cannot walk on the other side of the road. We must face our obstacles; we must face the fact that sometimes simply keeping laws and commandments isn’t enough. We need to learn that all our actions must be directed for the good of others.
Sometimes we simply need a wakeup call that tells us that all we have around us in this modern age is that of our making. We fool ourselves if we think any of what we have today is of any value to God. God could destroy it and create something millions of times better with the blink of an eye. We fool ourselves when we think that all of this is for us and that is what we have to live for. We were created for God. We owe it to Him to worship him continuously. We owe it to Him to assist in taking care of those around us. Sometimes it is not as detailed as helping a victim on the side of the road, so much as simply doing no harm in the first place. Unkind words, thoughts or actions.
Keeping laws promotes good order in any community. Doing good for others promotes right relationships in those same communities. Laws are something external to us that can be measured and defined concretely. Mercy and compassion are internal to us and can be measured only in terms of the good we actually do for others. We are called to do as the Samaritan in the parable – Let the law of love and compassion guide us and gain for us eternal life.
It is true that we are saved by virtue of Jesus’ Crucifixion and Resurrection, however Jesus calls us to lay down our lives for others, by being a living, breathing, and walking expression of love and compassion to those we meet. We are called to do good works continuously here on earth to continue the ministry of Christ to the world.
God Love You +
+ The Most Rev. Robert Winzens
Pastor- St. Francis Universal Catholic Church
San Diego, Ca.