Homily for 15th Sunday in Ordinary time year C 2013
Few weeks ago, I went to the doctor to have my injections as part of the requirement for the trip overseas. I had three shots and the doctor (an Egyptian man) said it would cost a significant amount. However, the doctor told me to pay only whatever I could afford to pay. When the injections were done, I went to the counter to settle my account but I was told: ‘Don’t worry, it’s all being taken care of.’ Apparently the doctor had decided that I wouldn’t have to pay for it. He just asked me to pray for him and to buy an image of Jesus for him from Brazil.
I can’t help but share this with you because this experience is a proof that God’s word is really living an active in our world today, in our own time. The gesture of the doctor to cancel the cost of his service and of the injections is the modern version of the story of the ‘Good Samaritan’ that we heard in our gospel today. This assures us that the story of the good Samaritan is not only a parable that we can hear from the gospel. It is rather, a real thing and it is happening all around us here. Some of us here today have even experienced that, when some parishioners went to your homes, picked you up and brought you to the Church. This is just one assurance for us then that there is more hope in the world than despair. This tells us that there is more meaning in life than getting what we want or preserving ourselves. This goes to show us that we have ‘neighbours’ still who care for us in our needs and in our helplessness. But this is not only a question of ‘who is our neighbor?’ It is also a question of ‘who am I as a neighbor?’
This is a challenge for us in this 15th Sunday in Ordinary time: ‘How are as a neighbour? Are we doing well towards our neighbors? What is our attitudes towards our neighbors?
I hope our answer would not be like the answer given by a friend when I asked how he’s going when he said: ‘I did nothing in particular, and I am doing it very well.’
To answer the questions above, we need to go back to the gospel and reflect on the attitudes of the characters in the parable.
The first attitude Jesus wants to tell us is the legalistic attitude. This is the kind of attitude of the people who would say: ‘If I just listen and obey what is written in the law, I will be alright.’ Having this attitude however, would not get us far into human relationship. It is so limited because the primary point of reference here is not the person or personal relationship but rather the law and what it says. This limits our perspective and our initiatives. But this is the attitude shown by both the priest and the Levite in the story. The priest is on his way to offer worship in the temple. The law says that if he got in contact with a human blood or a corpse for that matter, he would become unclean and thus unworthy to do service in the temple. He has to undergo ritual cleansing again to be able to resume his temple duties. It is the same thing with the Levite. The Levites are temple assistants. They assist the priest in ritual and worship. They change the oils in the lamps, etc. He was on his way to the temple too. So if he would stop and attend to the bleeding and the dying man, he would be made unclean and thus unable to continue his usual temple duties without proper cleansing. So like the priest, off he went, revealing more of a selfish, insensitive and uncaring person he was. This kind of people generally live out their lives with the question: ‘What’s going to happen with me if I would stop and help?’ Jesus had to remind us that this is not the way we are supposed to be if we live as a neighbour to one another. Jesus is telling us to understand that there is more to the law than what it says. He is telling us that the spirit of the law is far more important than the letter.
The second attitude that Jesus wanted to show to us by telling the parable is the attitude of a good neighbour. We can see this attitude in the way the Samaritan man came to the rescue for the unfortunate man left half-dead on the road. We can see what a neighbour is like according to Jesus. A good neighbour comes to the rescue if someone is in need regardless of the person’s background, culture, identity or nationality. By telling the story, Jesus wants to present the point that being a neighbour must transcend even cultural conflicts and cultural prejudices. We have to note here that the Jews and the Samaritans considered themselves ‘mutual enemies’ for some reasons. Furthermore Jesus is telling us that a true neighbour offers help and shares whatever resources he/she has to help others. The Samaritan gave two denarii to the innkeeper as a payment for the accommodation if you like and even promised the owner: ‘Look after him, and on my way back I will make good any extra expense you have.’
We can call this attitude a Christ-like attitude. And what is this attitude? It is a loving, caring, being sensitive to the needs of others, taking risks, going into the spirit of the law rather than letter of the law, not expecting payment, investing more for the sake of others, and even using some of the personal resources to help others. People with qualities like these generally live out their lives with the question always: ‘What’s going to happen to this person if I don’t stop and offer help to him/her?’
To finish the parable, Jesus invites all of us to ‘go and do the same’ as the good Samaritan did to the man on the way to Jericho. To carry out this mission we need to transcend ourselves and to go beyond our personal interests and ambitions. To realize this mission in our lives we need to focus on Christ himself- the good Samaritan, who took the risk of crossing boundaries, of bridging cultures, and uniting different groups of people, by stopping by and helping us up as we lay there ‘half-dead through our sins’ on the road to life. Christ has done it. He is calling us to ‘do the same’. So this must be our resolution and our prayer. Amen.