The Good Samaritan
In today’s gospel Jesus is tested by a scholar of the law. In the gospels of Mark and Matthew it is Jesus who is asked about what is the greatest commandment, but in Luke Jesus asks the scholar which commandment is the greatest. He answers correctly when he replies, “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.”
When Jesus tells him to go and live that commandment the scholar tests Jesus by asking who is his neighbor. Jesus answers with the wonderful parable of the Good Samaritan.
In the parable a man beaten by robbers is left by the roadside to die. Two different travelers pass by him, a priest and a Levite, both of whom you would expect to help the injured man. Neither help but a third traveler comes and stops to tend to the man. The twist in the story is that the generous and compassionate stranger is a Samaritan, one of a northern tribe hated by the Jews.
Jesus has demolished all boundary expectations. It is not social definitions such as class, religion, gender, or ethnicity that determines who is our neighbor. A neighbor is a person who acts with compassion toward another. The point becomes not who deserves to be loved as I love myself, but that I become a person who treats everyone with compassion. (Loyola Press 15th-sunday-in-ordinary-time-c-sunday-connection)
How fitting this parable is for the society we live in today. The people different from my or others’ comfort zone are ignored or denigrated by my or their words and attitudes. Violence is rampant all around us, especially gun violence. Negative and/or false news fills social media to influence people negatively. Racism is a scourge that people of color experience on a daily basis. Many of us are not aware we have lived our whole lives as white people of privilege. Without realizing it, we are often treated differently than our sisters and brothers of color. It is time for all of us to honestly pray and reflect on how we treat every person with whom we interact.
In the first reading from the Book of Deuteronomy Moses tells the people,
If only you would heed the voice of the LORD, your God, and keep his commandments and statutes that are written in this book of the law, when you return to the LORD, your God, with all your heart and all your soul.
Just as Moses tells the people and Jesus tells the scholar we are to live our lives based on the great commandment to love God and love our neighbor as we love ourselves. There is no distinction about who is our neighbor – EVERYONE!
How aware are you of how you take your white privilege for granted? How can you become more aware of how people of color are treated?
In what ways can you show compassion and care to everyone you meet?