Go and Do Likewise

There was a scholar of the law who stood up to test Jesus and said,
“Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
Jesus said to him, “What is written in the law?
How do you read it?”
He said in reply,
“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.”
He replied to him, “You have answered correctly;
do this and you will live.”

But because he wished to justify himself, he said to Jesus, 
“And who is my neighbor?”
Jesus replied, 
“A man fell victim to robbers
as he went down from Jerusalem to Jericho.
They stripped and beat him and went off leaving him half-dead.
A priest happened to be going down that road,
but when he saw him, he passed by on the opposite side.
Likewise a Levite came to the place,
and when he saw him, he passed by on the opposite side.
But a Samaritan traveler who came upon him
was moved with compassion at the sight.
He approached the victim,
poured oil and wine over his wounds and bandaged them.
Then he lifted him up on his own animal,
took him to an inn, and cared for him.
The next day he took out two silver coins
and gave them to the innkeeper with the instruction,
‘Take care of him.
If you spend more than what I have given you,
I shall repay you on my way back.’
Which of these three, in your opinion,
was neighbor to the robbers’ victim?”
He answered, “The one who treated him with mercy.”
Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”
(Luke 10:25-37)   

Scripture Study

In this moving parable, which only St Luke gives us, our Lord explains very graphically who our neighbor is and how we should show charity towards him, even if he is our enemy.

Following other Fathers, St Augustine (De verbis Domini sermones, 37) identifies the good Samaritan with our Lord, and the waylaid man with Adam, the source and symbol of all fallen mankind. Moved by compassion, he comes down to earth to cure man’s wounds, making them his own (Is 53:4; Mt 8:17; 1 Pet 2:24; 1 Jn 3:5). In fact, we often see Jesus being moved by man’s suffering (cf. Mt 9:36; Mk 1:41; Lk 7:13). And St John says: “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the expiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (1 Jn 4:9–11).

This parable leaves no doubt about who our neighbor is—anyone (without distinction of race or relationship) who needs our help; nor about how we should love him—by taking pity on him, being compassionate towards his spiritual and corporal needs; and it is not just a matter of having the right feelings towards him: we must do something, we must generously serve him.

Christians, who are disciples of Christ, should share his love and compassion, never distancing themselves from others’ needs. One way to express love for one’s neighbor is to perform the “works of mercy”, which get their name from the fact that they are not duties in justice. There are fourteen such works, seven spiritual and seven corporal. The spiritual are: To convert the sinner; To instruct the ignorant; To counsel the doubtful; To comfort the sorrowful; To bear wrongs patiently; To forgive injuries; To pray for the living and the dead. The corporal works are: To feed the hungry; To give drink to the thirsty; To clothe the naked; To shelter the homeless; To visit the sick; To visit the imprisoned; To bury the dead.[1]

Reflection

“The one who treated him with mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”

The challenge in today’s Gospel reading is understanding the enormity of what the Samaritan did from our twenty-first century view. Can we imagine today seeing a person we have witnessed spewing hateful and discordant views against minorities then giving of their time and treasure to assist those same people? That action would significantly perplex us today as the the actions of the Samaritan was similarly perplexed to the Jews.

Jesus is telling us that we need to step back and see that we are all children of God – that we are all capable of sinful and virtuous behavior. The opportunity for each of us is to look for the good in everyone and not expect otherwise just because they live a life different from our own. Our accountability is to respond as Jesus taught – always with kindness and mercy.  

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.

 

 

 

[1] Saint Luke’s Gospel, The Navarre Bible (Dublin; New York: Four Courts Press; Scepter Publishers, 2005), 110.