The Story of the Good Samaritan
On the fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Jesus tells the story of the good Samaritan:
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. -Luke 10:30-33, NAB
In this story, a “scholar of the Law” was putting Jesus to the test, asking Him what we must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus’ answer was for us to love our God and love our neighbor as ourself. He then continued by telling the story of the good Samaritan.
While the priest and Levite (important figures to the Jews) avoided the man, a Samaritan offered help. In the following verses (Luke 10:34-35), the Samaritan bandaged the wounds, took him to the inn, cared for him, then paid the inn keeper to continue caring for him. The Samaritan showed the true meaning of love thy neighbor.
It’s also important to understand who the Samaritans were. They were people from the northern tribe of Israel that had eventually married and co-mingled with pagans. To the first century Jews, they would have seen the Samaritans as someone who had turned their back on the Jewish faith.
The story of the good Samaritan obviously shows us that Christ valued action over words. The priest and Levite professed God with their lips and were probably well-trained in the Law, but the Samaritan put that Law into action. While the priest and Levite talked about the Law, the Samaritan lived it.
Do we ever fall into this trap as Catholics? Have we become good at preaching the Word of God but fail to live it? Are we experts in the rituals of our faith yet struggle to put that faith into action in the real world? It’s a lesson that might hit closer to home than we would like.
Many of us have become so focused on understanding the theology and rituals of Catholicism that we have forgotten how to put it into action. Pope Francis seems to recognize this and is actively attempting to inspire the Church back into action. He wants us to have the wisdom of the priest and Levite but act on our faith like the good Samaritan.
Meanwhile, we need to recognize the efforts of our non-Catholic neighbors who are doing great things for those in need. Sometimes, we choose not to support them because they are not Catholic, but are they not doing God’s will by serving their neighbor? Are we not loving our neighbor by joining them in their efforts?
It’s one thing to profess “love thy neighbor” with the lips; it’s another thing to actually ilve it. Instead of telling the world about the love of Christ, we can be much more effective by showing it.