A scholar of the law conversed with Our Lord concerning eternal life. Indeed he was talking to the right person. Right at the very beginning of the gospel, we learn that we ought to lay down our concerns, questions, and inquiries to the Lord through prayer, in all circumstances of life. And when we speak with the Lord, we are assured to hear the best of words.
The scholar did receive the best words from the Word Himself.
Our Lord takes on many titles: the Son of God, the Son of Man, the Messiah, the Good Shepherd, the Healer, Emmanuel. In today’s gospel, moreover, we hear another title rightly associated with the person of God: the Good Samaritan. The Good Samaritan.
How did He credit that name?
In the parable our Lord tells speaks of a man who got beaten up, “half-dead”, and abandoned by the edge of ditch. One can infer that this man practices his faith. Notice that Luke describes the direction this man took: “from Jerusalem to Jericho”. Biblically speaking, Jerusalem symbolizes that eternal city, Heaven that is erected on Earth, whereas Jericho symbolizes a worldly city filled with sin. The Lord speaks of the man incurring “wounds” as a result of his descent from sanctity to sin. This man represents all of humanity, including us. At some point in our lives, we all have experienced a moment of descent from Jerusalem to Jericho. Beaten up, the man sought help, only to find himself avoided by those whom he needed most. One can visualize how much this man cries for help and because of his pain. This gospel reading also has subversive tone to it, as our Lord calls out the priests and Levites of his time who fail to follow the Law of the Lord. And then came the Good Samaritan. Keep in mind that in biblical history, the Samaritans and Jews have an acrimonious relationship; the cultural identity of the Samaritans is mixed with Jewish and pagan cultures. Their Jewish identity was watered down and, as a result, they were looked down by many Jews at that time. What did the Good Samaritan do? He took care of the man by pouring “oil and wine over his wounds and bandaged them”, “lifted him up”, “took him to an inn”, and paid for his stay there. Out of all the people who could help him out, it was the Good Samaritan who loved him as a neighbor, according to our Lord.
What does our Lord tell us from this parable? That the help we most greatly need comes from unusual places.
The Lord understands that as fallen creatures, as a race haunted by Sin, we need help. Sometimes we fail to obtain help from the ones we expect to find help. Because of sin, we fail to love one another. That is why there has to be another way for us to receive help, a source that will not fail, one that comes from the outside. Our Lord is an outsider, for He exists out of space and time. Out of His will He intruded into our world simply to save us. And that is why He credits the title “the Good Samaritan”, the good Outsider of our world!
As baptized, we share in the identity of our Lord and, therefore, have the grace to live out the title of “Good Samaritan”. This grace has been ever more important to recognize in our times, when we witness before our eyes countless individuals who need help. There are those who seek help to recover from an addiction, to cope from grief, to seek consolation in times of darkness, to fight injustices! We thirst for the One who will save us from all of our restlessness. We keep looking up, outside among us, to find the answers we long for. We are so ingrained with the idea that change is achieved by someone other than us. To believe so is a tremendous error. We keep looking for God up above, and get frustrated that he has not come out of the highest skies. The truth is that He does not need to! Moses preaches to us, through the first reading, that the Help that we long for is “something very near” to us. The Lord is among us. He is within us. We see Him through those who need help, just like the man in the parable. When we love our neighbor, we become like Christ and we encounter Christ. Thus, He says in Matthew’s gospel, whoever you feed, you clothe, and you counseled, you took care of, you did likewise to me (Mt 25:40).
In the beginning of His public life, the Lord proclaimed, the Kingdom of God is at hand, for His mission is for us to see that the Kingdom of God is within us, that by His grace, we can transform the world into a better. It starts within.