Lk 10: 25 – 37
Lord, often in our prayer we ask you questions, but deep down we want to justify ourselves – our inertia, our self-righteousness, our secret racism or snobbishness. We thank you that you continue to be Jesus for us, entering into dialogue with us, letting us come to our own conclusions, occasionally giving us a push by saying, “Go, and do the same thing yourself.”1
Take a few moments to read the gospel for today.
Before we commence our reflection we will clarify our understanding of the term “Samaritans”.
The story begins in 721 BC when the Assyrians conquered Northern Israel. Many of the local inhabitants were deported and replaced with Assyrian settlers. Not surprisingly, there was inter-marriage and so the Samaritans came into existence. Ever since they have been regarded as lesser humans. They were not of ‘pure’ Jewish blood. Jewish people despised them and certainly did not associate with them.
This was the situation when Jesus lived in Palestine.
Imagine the scene as Luke tells this story. A teacher of the Law asked Jesus, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus reply is, “Love God and your neighbour as yourself.” The audience is entirely made up of Jews. The teacher pushes on asking, “Who is my neighbour?” All knew exactly the people who were their ‘neighbours’. This obligation only applied to fellow Jews, because God only loves the Jews and nobody else.
The story begins. A traveller is attacked, beaten and robbed; in fact he is half dead. We are never told whether he is Jewish or not. Jesus introduces the characters one at a time. The priest approaches and all wait to hear how he is going to respond to the situation. Nobody seems to be too surprised when he passes by and fails to give assistance. He is after all a priest and if the man is dead and he touches the body he will become ritually unclean and that must not happen. As the second, a Levite, approaches the audience expects him to assist. This does not happen. He is also one of the elite and we do not expect such people to get involved with helping the most unfortunate in society. A third person approaches. This must surely be the person who is going to help. The hero of the story can only be a fellow Israelite! Jesus pauses. All wait for the climax. Who is the new-comer? A Samaritan!
One can hear the gasp of astonishment. “Jesus, you have really got it wrong this time!” But Jesus continues drive home the point even more forcefully. Not only does the Samaritan render first aid, he then transports the man to a place of shelter.
Utter disbelief sweeps through the audience. “How, could Jesus shame our people with this scandalous story?” Worse is to come. The Samaritan then provides for the victim’s recuperation and sets no limit on the expense.
The crowd and the teacher of the Law are shocked into silence. All their assumptions are turned upside down. Jesus asks, “Which of these was neighbour to the wounded man?” After a long pause the grudging reply comes, “The one who had mercy.” Even now nobody can bring themselves to say, “The Samaritan”. Our prejudices certainly run deep.
All leave in silence, with the closing words of Jesus ringing in their ears. “Go, and do the same!”
Lord, forgive us that as a Church, we remain wrapped up in our concerns,
- changes in the liturgy
- which are the most powerful prayers
- who should be bishops
- where parish boundaries should be set,
when, all the while, down the same road we are walking, people have fallen into the hands of brigands who have left them half-dead.
Lord, we remember societies torn apart on the grounds of race, religion, culture or class. We thank you that in all these communities there are Samaritans, quite unconcerned whether someone is a Jew or not, just moved with compassion for the brother or sister beaten and lying half-dead at the side of the road. We pray that those who hear their stories will go and do the same themselves. 2
- de Verteuil, M; Lectio Divina with the Sunday Gospels, Year C p 160
- de Verteuil, M; Lectio Divina with the Sunday Gospels, Year C p 161