As we think about the gospel reading today some questions to reflect on are, Who is my neighbor? And 2) What is my reaction to their needs, whether they be physical or spiritual? Do I respond as the Samaritan did with love and compassion, putting my concerns second to the needs of another? Or do I too often make the choice like the priest and Levite to pass by on the other side and not get involved, saying I am too busy to help or I do not want to be criticized by a friend or colleague? For example, in my daily life do I stand up for the teachings of Christ and the Catholic Church on social issues such as marriage, homosexuality, abortion or am I content in following the ways of our secular society.
In our gospel reading a scholar of the law asks Jesus, who is my neighbor? As if to say, who am I exactly responsible for, where does my responsibility stop? Jesus answers, a man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, he fell victim to robbers and was stripped, beaten and left half-dead. That is our neighbor. Any person who has need of our help is our neighbor.
The author of a book I’ve read a part of says the first expression of love is to bring our neighbor closer to the Faith. As we go through life we come across many people who are injured and left “half-dead” in body and soul. People who have been hurt by misunderstanding and loneliness, or who lack the most basic human necessities or people who do not understand the basic truths of our faith. We must never forget that faith is the greatest treasure man has, much more important than all material and human values. At times before preaching the faith we may first have to approach the person lying at the roadside and tend to their injuries. But as Christians we can never overlook the need to spread the faith, to help people understand it better and to spread the Christian meaning of life. A Christian needs to be involved in human and social progress such as the desire for social justice but the over-riding concern to enlighten people’s minds in regard to faith and religious life cannot be relegated to second place.
As an illustration of some of this I am going to mention some things which have happened at Chick-Fil-A, a Christian based company. When the Supreme Court was discussing the issue of marriage equality the President of Chick-Fil-A said this about marriage: “I think we are inviting God’s judgement on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say we know better than you what constitutes a marriage. I pray God’s mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think we have the audacity to define what marriage is about.” (We can’t redefine marriage because it is God who defined it in the first place as between a man and a woman). In another interview he said: “We are supportive of the biblical definition of family, we want to do all we can to strengthen families. We know this may not be popular with everyone but we intend to stay the course.”
In response, a man drove up to a Chick-Fil-A drive through window here in Arizona. He said to the young lady at the window how hateful the Chick-Fil-A corporation is, how horrible its values are. (for supporting traditional marriage and not a same-sex relationship) He said how he can’t understand how she can live with herself working for such a hateful company. The young woman in response said we treat all our customers the same and are happy to serve all people. The New York mayor has said how Chick-Fil-A is spreading a message of hate by not supporting same-sex love.
I now follow with examples of how this so called hateful corporation has reached out to embrace and love those in need. The following was reported by a man who witnessed this take place at a Chick-Fil-A restaurant. He had lunch with his daughter. After she played on their playground they ordered ice cream.
While enjoying their ice cream a beggar walked in and asked for some scraps of food. The manager stopped what he was doing, told the man he would give him a full meal to eat and asked for just one thing in return, that he could pray with him. The manager right there in the middle of the restaurant placed his hand on the man and prayed. The gentleman describing this said how he could only hear a message of love in what was being said. He explained to his daughter what was happening and she bowed her head as if to join in the prayer. And just recently in response to the tragedy in Orlando, Chick-Fil-A employees volunteered to come in on a Sunday (they are normally closed Sundays) to donate meals to the first responders and those donating blood, in order to help their community in need.
You can see in this example how by standing up for Christian principles and values one may be criticized and falsely accused of being hateful. But as Christians/as Catholics we are called to bring the Gospel message of Christ and His Church to others even if we have to suffer by doing so.
Now as the gospel parable continues we read how a priest and a Levite going down the road passed by on the other side. Here our Lord is speaking to us about sins of omission. The priest/the Levite had worries of their own, they had important things to do. They gave greater importance to their own business than to the man in need. Therein lay their sin: They passed by on the other side/they did not help.
I recently saw a patient, a young Catholic woman in the office. She has a blood clotting disorder and was unable to get pregnant so she was planning to go through in-vitro fertilization. As I saw it I had a choice to make, I could walk on the opposite side of the issue and supply her with the blood thinners she would need to help sustain her pregnancy, or I could take the extra time necessary during the office visit to discuss how in-vitro fertilization is morally wrong and how it goes against the teachings of the Catholic Church. ( As a side note on the way to work that morning I had heard on the radio a quote from St. Bonaventure, he said how Saint Francis would weep for people in sin. This made him more energetic in prayer and in his preaching). So I did speak with her how I thought in-vitro fertilization was wrong and would be sinful and that I did not recommend that for her. I have not seen her back and do not know what she chose to do. But I believe she was put in my path that day for a reason, and that I needed to get involved and teach her what Catholics believe about in-vitro fertilization.
How many times in our own lives do we encounter someone we know on birth control, living together out of wedlock or in a same-sex relationship. Do we get involved and say this is wrong in the eyes of Christ/in the eyes of the Church or do we avoid the issue afraid of being criticized or of losing a friend? Our goal like that of our priests should be to help those we meet avoid sin (especially mortal sin) and help them lead a life of perfect holiness. We need to speak out with compassion, with love out of concern for ones’ eternal well-being. Like Saint Francis, may our souls weep for those in sin, and inspire us to be more energetic and attentive in our prayer life and in bringing the Gospel message to others.
As the Gospel continues…A Samaritan, one hated by the Jews, saw the man on the side of the road, had compassion and cared for him. What we need in our own lives is a readiness to see the misfortunes of others and not hurry through life so much that when we meet someone in need we easily find an excuse to pass by on the other side. The Samaritan did what was necessary. First he went up to the man. The first thing to be done whenever we encounter misfortune or need is to get up close, we cannot just observe the situation from a distance. The Samaritan next did what had to be done: he took care of the man. The love Our Lord asks of us consists in doing whatever needs to be done in each individual case. God places our neighbor and his needs along the road of our lives. Love is always ready to do whatever the immediate situation demands. It may not be anything particularly heroic or difficult, indeed what is called for is very often something small and simple. It may require offering some small service, a word of thanks, a smile, or listening with interest to what someone has to say. But do it all with love.
Jesus concludes the parable by asking the scholar, which of these three was the victim’s neighbor? He answered, The one who treated him with mercy. Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.” Jesus says the same thing to us, Go and do likewise. Be understanding, involved and compassionate with whoever needs you.BACK TO LIST