Vice Chancellor - Ecumenical Services
Some of Jesus’ stories have become so popular they are handed down from one generation to the next. The parable of the Good Samaritan is a story many of us know almost by heart.
A lawyer challenges Jesus and tries to trap him with his questions. His first loaded question is ‘Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life.’ Now if someone asked you that question today how would answer it? “I don’t know ask Father Al,” or “Ask Deacon Mike, he thinks he knows everything!” Perhaps you might say, “Accept that Jesus paid for our sins with his life and all we have to do is turn away from sin, accept God love and follow him.”
But Jesus apparently never answered a question directly. He almost always answered a question with a question. And so he asked the lawyer, “What does the law say?” He was speaking about God’s laws as handed down to Moses, not about one of Rome’s laws, which had nothing to do with saving souls. Kind of like all our laws today, right? None of the thousands of city ordinances, or our state and federal laws help us to attain eternal life. So Jesus makes the man answer his own question when he said, “What is written in the law and how do you read it?” The lawyer quotes directly from scripture.
Jesus tells him, and us, “…do this and you will live.”
But like most lawyers he wasn’t satisfied he wanted to get Jesus to misspeak. So he asks Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” And again Jesus answers him by turning the words around and making the man answer his own question. And that’s what Jesus does to you and me today, too! Instead of answering the question directly Jesus tells a story and then asks him of the three main characters, who was a good neighbor to the victim of the robbers?
The lawyer could not even say the word Samaritan, there was so much hatred between Jews and Samaritans. But he was forced to admit that the one who treated the robber’s victim with mercy was neighbor.
It’s not just what we say it’s what we do. Think about someone you just don’t like, perhaps you may even hate them? If you were in trouble would you accept help from them? I can hear some of us now, “I would sooner die than accept help from (blank)!”
There’s a family I know where all the children are grown up and some have kids of their own. One of the adult children has gotten into serious financial problems to the point that they are out of food, their debts are piling up, their vehicles are broken down and they seem to have used up all their options. The husband blames his mother for the troubles in his life even though he’s over 50 and it’s his own choices that put him the predicament he’s in now. Some folks cannot take responsibility for causing their own problems, they just have to blame someone else; a family member, the cops, society, the government, illegal immigrants, the church, God, anyone.
In spite of this wall of fear and anger and hatred the man has created, his mom has found a way to save the man’s home, pay his utilities and put food in his belly. She is a good neighbor whether or not the man shows gratitude, thanks or understanding. She acted out of love by doing what was right with absolutely no expectation of anything in return. Can you see yourself as that kind of neighbor?
In the book of Deuteronomy (Ch. 6) Moses tells the people to “…return to the Lord, your God, with all your heart and all your soul.” He explains that our relationship with God is not up in the sky or across the sea. We don’t need someone else to go find it for us. We already have it. God lives within us and we already know how he wants us to be just by looking into our own hearts. Rediscover the love within you and renew your soul. When you again accept God’s love you will be healed, and hope will be renewed.
As I grow older I find it difficult to do things that used to be so easy for me not long ago. My knees and hips hurt, my shoulder fails me from time to time and I have to accept the help that others give me with gratitude. I have to become a grateful receiver of love and kindness and find different ways to reach out to those who need me. Being a good neighbor doesn’t stop, I just have to find new ways to share God’s love.
When I accept the gift of the Body and Blood of Jesus in the Eucharist God again grants me healing and forgiveness. I am renewed and filled again with hope. The answers are not out there, they’re in our hearts. If there’s something eating away at your peace of mind ask Jesus to turn it around, to show you a way to forgive so you can be healed, to love even in the face of hatred, to encourage others even when you are feeling down. Don’t let love leak out of your heart. Give your love away and God will find a way to fill your heart up again until it overflows. We are His hands, His feet, His heart. Amen.