My name is Samuel. But most people just call me Sam.
Like Don Coreleone in the Godfather movies – I was named for the place where I was born. . . I am from SAMARIA — so I am Sam, the Samaritan.
Now certainly you have heard of Samaria and Samaritans – and my bet is, if you have, your impressions aren’t that great. . .
Why just a couple of Sundays ago, you heard of some Samaritans being inhospitable to your man Jesus – the Gospel said, “On the way, some messengers of Jesus entered a Samaritan village to prepare for his reception there, but they would not welcome him because the destination of his journey was Jerusalem.”
And when two of his disciples, James and John, heard of the incident they wanted to call down fire from heaven to consume them – not exactly something you want to do to people you like. . .
So why the bad blood? To make a long story short, once close kinsmen, Samaritans were regarded as not being proper Jews — by the time of Jesus. They were not orthodox, or good enough, so to speak. . . They came from a mixed background having inter-married with the local folks — so were seen as ethnically impure.
Since they were seen as outcasts and despised by the Jews in Israel, they were not allowed to worship at the Temple in Jerusalem, so the Samaritans built their own temple in their capital city of Shechem – which widened the gap between these two groups even more. . .
And that’s what gives the use of a Samaritan in perhaps one of the greatest stories ever told by Jesus – such force.
This Samaritan made good – because he was able to rise above the bigotry and prejudices of centuries and showed mercy and compassion for an injured man – after his own countrymen – a priest and a Levite – pass him by – this was shocking news to those who originally heard the story.
Remember when your preacher-man told you a couple of weeks ago that St. Luke’s Gospel is written for the underdogs of this world?? Those who are always finding themselves at the bottom of the pile, who never seem to get a break, and who always fall behind in some way?
Well, this “Good” Samaritan is a case in point – Jesus elevates this lowly one, and sets as his code of conduct the embracing of all, and the forsaking of no one – AND YOU – YOU— ARE TO GO AND DO LIKEWISE – but I am getting ahead of myself!
I’m here to confront you quite bluntly with the inconvenient truth of this story: ARE YOU CAPABLE OF BEING A GOOD SAMARITAN?? Before you answer the question, let’s consider a few things. . .
How often do you see people in need – and pass by on the other side?
Do you heed Christ’s calling to serve others, when you encounter soul after soul, day after day, everywhere you go. . . or do you pass up the opportunities way too often?
Do you selfishly justify your own agenda? Being so rushed and so distracted. Or worse, do you deem the needy unworthy of your time and effort?
Is your life bound in comfort and safety – and are those boundaries drawn to limit you from seeing the other side of the road, keeping you from going there?
It’s so easy to keep to ourselves, to our lives, to our people – isn’t it??? So are you uncomfortable yet? That’s the whole point of this parable – -to shake you up a bit. . . But I’m not finished yet. . .
Haven’t we all become somewhat blind to those barriers that have slowly been built – surrounding our sacred world of plenty, of selfish demands, of foregoing the dirty work with our clean hands?
The irony is we always looked on the priest and Levite with such disdain, using our punishing critical voice of “how could you just pass by and do nothing??”
Don’t you see yourself? Even just a tiny bit of yourself – often doing the same thing???
“Love thy neighbor” doesn’t mean: Help when you have the time. Help when your heart is in the right place. Help when you have energy. Help when it’s convenient. Help when it’s someone you are comfortable with and love.
“Love thy neighbor” doesn’t mean — Help only those you agree with and understand. Help only the people you deem lovable and worthy of help. Help only those who believe the same things you believe.
NO, it means so much more. . .
LOVE: Sacrificially. Selflessly. Enduringly. Unconditionally. Generously. Compassionately. These are words that describe Christian ministry. . .
Our neighbor, as in love they neighbor — is broadly defined, not narrowly construed.
Now in reality — we don’t know what the priest and Levite had in their minds or on their hearts — when they chose to ignore the wounded man. . . Perhaps they did not want to get their holy hands dirty, or their sacred lives messy.
It could be that they were so distracted with their own pious mission, they simply did not think to look up so did not even see the man.
Or even worse? They may have believed someone so broken and beaten down was surely not worthy of their precious time and attention. . .
Were their deceiving beliefs keeping them from serving their Lord, hidden in the person of their neighbor? Oh, this fundamental hypocrisy lays the groundwork for so many people. . .
Whatever the reasons, no matter their intentions, two prestigious and religious people failed in God’s greatest purpose for our lives. God calls us all — to care for his children: There are no boundaries, no rules, nor qualifiers that limits this command: go, and do likewise. . .
And the one man, who was hated among the Jews. . . did what was right. A Samaritan. A Good Samaritan. He cared for a broken and beaten human being who was in desperate need of help.
What is so great about this story, I think, is that God chose a Samaritan – one of my people – to exemplify doing the work of building the kingdom of God. A task many thought all Samaritans were incapable of doing. . .
Someone whom people despised back in that day.
Christ honors HIS heart, HIS choice, HIS service – and condemns the others for neglecting what is most important to the Lord – caring for his children – all of his children.
Oh how this truth is powerful, and the message is clear. May we all stop our busy distracted lives to lift the wounded, tend to the weak, love the unlovable, and serve those in need.
NO MATTER WHO THEY ARE, no matter how ugly the situation, or how broken and beaten down they appear.
Jesus is calling all of us to get our holy hands dirty and our sacred lives messy. We need to feel this call of the Lord deep within us, so we can open our eyes to see the broken and the wounded, the weak and the lost. We need to stretch out of our comfortable places, and remove our fears, our judgements, and our daily distractions —- AND CROSS THE ROAD!
So, my good friends of St. Patrick, take it from Sam the Samaritan – open your eyes and your hearts, open your holy hands, and your sacred lives --
For Christ is calling you to cross the road –
Because one thing is for sure – there is plenty of work to be done there.
So just to end on a lighter note. . .
Why did the Christian cross the road?? Because there was a person in the ditch on the other side. . . and they were going to help. . .
Sister Melannie Svoboda, a school sister of Notre Dame, tells the following story in her book, Rummaging for God – a rather appropriate title as many of you will be rummaging at our garage sale this week. . . Anyway – Sister Melannie writes:
Beth and Cora, twin girls were born twelve weeks early. As was standard hospital practice at the time – the little girls were place in separate incubators in the PICU: the pediatric intensive care unit.Cora, the larger twin at two pounds three ounces, quickly began to gain weight.
But little Beth, weighing only two pounds, had breathing and heart problems. Two weeks after birth, Beth’s condition became critical.
The doctors and nurses did everything they could to stabilize Beth. They suctioned her airway, and increased her flow of oxygen. But Beth just squirmed restlessly and her heartbeat soared. It was then that one of the nurses remembered reading about a procedure common in parts of Europe – that called for putting newborn twins in the same incubator.
The nurse secured the permission of the twins’ parents to try the procedure.
She placed little Beth alongside her sister Cora.
No sooner had she closed the door to the incubator than Beth snuggled up to Cora. Immediately she calmed down. Within minutes her blood-oxygen level was the best it had been since her birth. Within days, Beth was gaining weight. Eventually both babies were healthy and strong enough to go home. Today, more and more hospitals are adopting the practice of the double-bedding of premature twins. . .
In the Gospel, Jesus appoints 72 people to carry the Good News of the Gospel to every town and place he intended to visit – and he sends them out not alone — but in pairs: two by two he sends them. . .
I want to strongly suggest that Jesus knew we draw great strength and support from those
with whom we share a common journey. . .
And I think that’s why the Church, in its wisdom, requires us to have godparents at Baptism, a sponsor for Confirmation, why a couple wanting to get married in the Church is sent to a lead couple as part of their preparation and why newly ordained priests spend a year or two in a parish with a seasoned pastor – because the Church also knows we draw great strength and support from those with whom we share a common journey.
During these Sundays of Ordinary Time – as we journey with Jesus to Jerusalem— making his mission our mission: bringing glad tidings to the poor, proclaiming liberty to captives, recovery of sight to the blind and allowing the oppressed to go free:
We have to stay focused on Jesus – and not on the things of the world —– and we have to remember that we do not journey alone – in fact, we cannot journey alone – we need the care and support of one another.
Perhaps that is just another way of reminding us that because we are created in the image and likeness of the God who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – we long to be in love, to be in relationship, and to be in community. We are who we are because God is – who God is. . .
So let’s be ever thankful for our families – who more than likely first gave us the gift of faith — be thankful for this community of St. Patrick that surrounds us Sunday after Sunday and with whom we get to worship — and be thankful for those special people — spouses, friends, pastors, religious and relatives, godparents and sponsors — who God has sent to be our traveling companions in faith —- as we journey to Jerusalem together.
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