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15th Sunday in Ordinary Time — What Does It Mean to Be a Good 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 10:30-37).
In the parable of the good Samaritan, Jesus challenges us in at least three ways: how close we should get to suffering, how generously we should respond, and how inclusive our compassion should be.
First, notice that the priest and Levite crossed the road so that they wouldn’t have to get too close to the injured man who may have appeared to be dead. Touching a dead body would render them unsuitable for service to God. But perhaps they kept their distance so they could avoid seeing that wounded man. The good Samaritan’s behavior, however, challenges us to move toward suffering rather than away from it. When we engage life “up close and personal,” with open eyes and open hearts, we are much more likely to be moved to compassionate action.
The second challenge the good Samaritan poses for us is to question how generous our compassionate action should be. In many situations, it’s not enough to make donations of cash, food, or clothes; send a sympathy card; or promise to pray for others. The good Samaritan personally comforted the injured man, transported him to a safe haven, paid for his care, and promised to return to see if more was needed. The Samaritan may have arrived late at his original destination, but sometimes God has other destinations in mind for us.
Third, using the good Samaritan as his example, Jesus underlines his constant teaching that the test of Christian love is not how much we love those who love us, but how much we love those who don’t love us. Jesus’ disciples are to respond to the example of the good Samaritan by imitating their master’s embrace of all people. We are called to extend our compassion to our “enemies”: those who get on our nerves, those who sometimes insult us, those who can’t repay us, those who often disagree with us, as well as those who seek to hurt us.
It takes just this kind of inclusive compassion to break down the barriers to the full realization of God’s beloved community.
– How can you move out of your comfort zone, and to whom could you respond with compassion?
Adapted from PrayerTime: Faith-Sharing Reflections on the Sunday Gospels, available at the RENEW International store
Graphic by Dinah Roe Kendall.

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One Response to “15th Sunday in Ordinary Time — What Does It Mean to Be a Good Neighbor?”

  1. John Bartelloni says:

    My parish ( in the District of Columbia is located just blocks from the Capitol. One might cross paths with a Congressional staffer or a homeless person.

    Father Riffle, in preaching his homily two weeks ago, urged those in attendance not just to act as the Good Samaritan had done, but to acknowledge that just like the victim described in this Gospel, we are broken and need to be healed.

    In January, 2011, I learned that deep inside my body a cancerous tumor was growing rapidly. `I received 39 radiation treatments and two years of hormone injections.

    For me to live, part of me had to die. I am not referring to just the tumor. No, I needed to look hard at my attitude toward life.

    The physical changes as a result of treatment were very disheartening. I sank into depression.

    I remain indebted to family and friends who went the extra mile as I healed. The process continues, but I am getting stronger daily.

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