Who Do You Stop For?

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Jesus continues this week to expound on the mission of a Christian or of a disciple (Luke 10: 25-37).  It is echoed by what we hear in the first reading: The word of God is near to you, it is in your mouth and in your heart so that you can put it into practice.  And what we see today in a gospel has inspired over the centuries countless good works.

Just before this gospel when the disciples return from going out on their own Jesus says, “I bless you, Father, for hiding things from the learned and the clever and revealing them to little children.”  Then he relates this parable about the Good Samaritan who has a childlike spirit.

The contrast of the ministers of God with the unselfishness of this Samaritan who is hated by them is astounding.  We see here the unlimited nature of the Christians’ duty to love.  In the Old Testament, to love your neighbor meant to love your countryman; but now Jesus makes this command universal.  Who is my neighbor; asks the lawyer who seems to want to know the minimum of what he needs to do?  The answer is the one who is in need, no matter what his country or faith or color.  This is the duty to love.

The gospel is asking us: who do you stop for?  Our charity should always be ordered: first, your family, your spouse and children, grandchildren, etc., and then those close to you in the office and neighborhood.  It would be a disorder to run around helping the poor, but neglecting the ones closer to you.

This gospel is thought by some to be a true story, not just a parable.   There is a subtle point that Luke makes that may help us to understand Jesus’ teaching.  To go from Jerusalem which is 2,000 feet above sea level down to Jericho which is 800 feet below sea level, one needs to make a large descent.  The road is well known in those days and is called the “Bloody Way” since so many are robbed on this road.  It seems to me that Luke is also hinting at to love like this Samaritan means that I have to go down; I need to descend.  I need to humble myself and to accept humiliations as Christ did.  Only in this way can I love those who don’t love me, which is the true sign of a Christian.

Look at the Samaritan.  His love was spontaneous, disinterested, kind, personal and very effective.  Can we say our love is always disinterested and spontaneous?  Is there a calculation involved?  Don’t we love more the ones we like and hope for something in return?

The lawyer expected a general answer and he got something very different in return.  At the end he could not even say the word: Samaritan.  His response to Christ’s question of who was the true neighbor was: the one who treated him with mercy.

In a new book on C.S. Lewis by Alister McGrath, he describes the amazing scene of The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe when winter is melting and Aslan returns to Narnia.  It is a very beautiful image of the witch’s demise and how Christ returns in the figure of Aslan.  The author surmises that this was also a personal experience of Lewis, who in his early thirties rejected atheism and embraced Jesus Christ.  Lewis insists that it was not he who was searching for God.  God took the initiative and Lewis’ heart melted, like that eternal Narnian winter.  He became one of the greatest apologists for Christianity in England and the US, and still has an enormous influence today.

Maybe we also need to have our hearts melted so that we can descend and be able to love those who are in need, and are near to us.

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