15 Sunday C: Good Samaritan

From The connections:

The Good Samaritans at table seven
You and your family push your way into the restaurant on a Friday night.  After a long wait, you finally get a table.  The place is packed — and loud.  After a long wait, your waitress hurries over to your table with menus.  Deena, her name tag reads.  Deena cannot be more than 16 or 17 — the same age as your daughter.  After a quick hello and welcome, she disappears to serve another table.  Deena returns several minutes later to take your order — including the four different ways your party wants their burgers.  You can tell she is working really hard to keep it together.
While you wait, Deena is summoned by the man at a nearby table.  You can see and hear the encounter:  He all but throws his underdone steak, his soggy French fries, and warm beer at Deena.  He berates her for the slow service and dismal food.  She apologizes profusely and removes the food.  When she returns a few minutes later with new servings, he takes a bite and a sip, grunts and glares at her.  At another table, she tries to mollify screaming children; another party changes its order four times; she collides into the kid bussing tables and a tray of glassware and dirty dishes crashes to the floor.

Deena finally comes to your table with your food.  She has forgotten your son’s onion rings and one of the soft drinks.  She runs off and is back in a minute with the food.  She is very apologetic.  You smile and say everything’s is great.  You say you realize it’s a busy night.  You say how impressed you are that she and the wait staff can serve so many hungry patrons so quickly and efficiently.   She smiles a real smile for the first time all evening.  “Thanks,” she says.  “We try.”
You leave a larger tip than usual.  And on the way out the door, you make a point of saying to the manager:  “Our waitress Deena was terrific.  We hope we have her again next time we’re here.”

Hearing Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan, we resolve to act the same way should we ever encounter someone lying in a ditch, beaten and bruised, and near dead.  But every day, without realizing it, we encounter people who are in a ditch of discouragement, who have been beaten and bruised by the abuse and anger of others, who have been left near dead in frustrating hopelessness.  We don’t have to look very far to find such “victims” — and we can become Good Samaritans by extending to them compassion, understanding and a helping hand.  May we embrace the perspective of Christ that enables us to see one another as our “neighbors” and seek to “take care of them” as we travel together to Jericho.  
Fr. Jude  Botelho:

In the first reading from the Book of Deuteronomy Moses reminds his people of the observance of the law. As the Israelites reach the end of their journey to the promised land Moses cautions them about being faithful to the covenant and the observance of the law. Keeping the covenant requires hearing the voice of the Lord and loving that Lord with all the heart, soul and strength. There is a deliberate mention of the 'Shema' prayer, the central expression of the Jewish faith. The law is not something far away but something very near, written not on a scroll but in the mouth and heart of the believer.
If the law of God is near us, Jesus brings God nearer still. The second reading from St. Paul's letter to the Colossians contains one of the earliest hymns articulating the statement of the Christian faith in Jesus. To know God one has to look at Jesus, for he is the image of the invisible God. Two themes: creation and recreation are the pivots of the imagery of the hymn. Jesus is the first born of all creation and by his resurrection he holds the first place, he is the head of the new body the Church. The Gospel provides the link between the law mentioned in Book of Deuteronomy: the law that demands that we love God with all our heart, soul and strength, and the equally demanding challenge of loving our neighbour. The gospel begins with an academic discussion between a smart lawyer, an expert in the Jewish religious law and Jesus himself. He knows the law yet he tests Jesus to seeks his response and perhaps trap him. "What must I do to seek eternal life?" Jesus invites him to provide an answer from the Law that he knows so well. The lawyer joins two verses of together -the familiar 'Shema'prayer with its requirement to love the Lord to the fullest possible extent (Deut. 6:5) and a short verse about love of neighbour (Leviticus 19:18). The Lawyer had answered his own question but was not ready to give up the argument and so he asks another question: "And who is my neighbour?" Jesus does not give a direct answer but responds by telling a parable which will provide the answer. Firstly, in the parable there is the man who was going from Jerusalem to Jericho and was waylaid along the way, which was apparently dangerous and would normally be avoided by any sensible Jew. In other words the man was asking for trouble and was responsible for his own misfortune. We then have two travellers who pass by the same road and notice him lying half dead. The first is a priest, who should have been the first to help but he passes by the other side. Perhaps, he is on his way to perform his temple duties and does not want to be polluted by touching blood. Similarly, a levite also connected with temple rituals passes by on the other side maybe for the same reason. Both have valid excuses for their behaviour. Maybe if they stop they also might be attacked. Maybe the man is faking it; Maybe he deserves it for not being prudent, he doesn't deserve to be helped. Their temple job is more important and helping will delay the worship in the temple. Like the priest and the levite we too could have our own justifications for not getting involved with others, for not reaching out and helping those in need. Then comes the surprising part of the story, the third character is not a virtuous believer but a good-for nothing Samaritan. Jews and Samaritans hated each other because of their traditional rivalry and they would not normally lift a finger to help each other. However in the parable the Samaritan, notices the fallen Jew, is unconcerned about his own safety or what it might cost him. He is moved with compassion and not only spends time dressing his wounds but goes out of his way to take him to the nearest inn and pays for his upkeep. The Samaritan is the outsider, the alien, the bad guy who might have been expected to ignore or do further damage to the fallen man. Yet it is he who befriends and helps beyond the call of duty. So often it is those whom we least expect to be sensitive and generous who outdo themselves in serving the needy.

Charlie Chaplin the Good Samaritan
In the movie 'Limelight', Charlie Chaplin is Calvero, an aging vaudeville performer, and Clair Bloom is Thereza, a suicide-prone ballerina. In his prime Calvero was a famous comedian -but now in his decline, coupled with his drinking problem, he bores the audience. As Calvero staggers home one night, he comes across Thereza trying to commit suicide. He rescues her and allows her to share his apartment to recuperate. They begin a platonic relationship. Calvero encourages Thereza to try ballet again. When she looses confidence on the opening night, Calvero forces her to go onstage. The strain is too much for the aging Calvero. He dies from a heart attack while Thereza pirouettes on the stage with renewed hope. This touching story about a caring man is almost the film version of our Lord's Good Samaritan Parable.
- Albert Cylwicki in His Word Resounds
 The lawyer had asked Jesus the question, "Who is my neighbour?" Having narrated the parable Jesus confronts the lawyer with the leading question: "Which of the three do you think, was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?" The lawyer is forced to admit, "The one who showed him mercy." The point of the parable is not the failure of certain characters in it to show themselves neighbours but really the inclusive teaching on neighbourliness. The story of the victim on the side of the road is a challenge to examine how we see others as neighbours. Who do we see as neighbours? Generally we like to think of neighbours as the people of our type: our faith, our community, our colour, and our social class. Today's reading challenges us to think that our neighbour might be someone totally different. We might not consider him deserving of our time, concern and care and yet he/she is the person who is the neighbour we are called to love. The lawyer had asked "Who is my neighbour?" Jesus did not answer his query but told him to be a good neighbour: "Go and do like wise." Jesus does not tell us what to do but rather invites us to change our attitude and thinking regarding others. It is a call to conversion, a call to create a welcoming and open heart that excludes no one, because in loving our neighbour we are loving God.

Welcome, my son!
A king who had no son to succeed him posted a notice inviting young men to come along and apply for adoption into his family. The two qualifications were love of God and love of neighbour. A peasant boy was tempted to apply, but he felt unable to do so because of the rags he wore. He worked hard, earned some money, bought new clothes and headed off to try his luck at being adopted into the king's family. He was half-way there, however when he came across a poor beggar on the road, who was shivering with the cold. The young lad felt sorry for him, and exchanged his clothes with him. There was hardly much point in going any further towards the king's palace at this stage, now that he was back in his rags again. However the young man felt that, having come this far, he might as well finish the journey. He arrive at the palace, and despite the jeers and sneers of the courtiers, he was finally admitted into the presence of the king. Image his amazement to see that the king was the old beggar-man he had met on the road, and he was actually wearing the good clothes the young man had given him! The king got down from his throne, embraced the young man, and said "Welcome, my son!"
- Jack McArdle in 'And that's the Gospel truth.'

Finney and the Law

Neither Charles Finney’s parents nor his neighbours were religious. Finney had grown up ignorant of religion. When he went to study law at Adams, his curiosity of the Bible was aroused during his study of the law. The authors of the ‘Elementary law’ which he studied often referred to the Mosaic institutes as authority for many of the great principles of law. So he bought a Bible and began to refer to the relevant passages and subsequently was drawn into it. He came to the definite conclusion that it was the Word of God and began to understand his own sinful condition and that Christ alone could deliver him from his sins. The Spirit of the Lord led to his conversion and his subsequent mighty work for Christ.

Daniel Sunderaj in ‘Manna for the Soul’

In today’s gospel Jesus speaks of keeping the greatest of the commandments. But which commandments have to be observed? Jesus leads us to the discovery that there is only one commandment to be observed, the commandment of love. He combines the teaching of the law from Deuteronomy and Leviticus: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and love your neighbour as yourself. The disciples were ready to accept the first part of the commandment, that of loving God, but who is the neighbour whom we are called to love? Is my neighbour the one next door, a person of my ethnic group, the one from my religious sect? Surely, the neighbour cannot be extended to any and every human being? Jesus teaches that neither religion, nor nationality can set limits to one’s responsibility to come to the aid of our fellow human being. The duty to help a needy human being cannot be coloured by personal feelings. The Samaritan showed by his actions that he recognized his neighbour even in the hated Jew. We therefore dare not ask, ‘Who is my neighbour?’ but rather, ‘How can I be a good neighbour?’ The love of God cannot be separated from the love of our neighbour. We have one commandment and there can be only one love, the love of God seen in the way we deal with any and every human being.

Modern Samaritan

A salesman had had a busy week and was returning to his home town. He stopped his car for a break at a roadside coffee shop. As he sat drinking his coffee he heard a girl quietly crying in the next booth. He didn't want to get involved but he was moved by her obvious distress. The girl was about 17, the same age as his daughter. Against his better judgement he introduced himself and asked if he could help. The girl, whose name was Lisa, told him that she was from a broken home and had got into bad company. She was into drugs and had turned to prostitution to pay for them. Moved as he was, he just bought the girl a meal and continued his journey. Later that evening he shared his experience with his family. His family suggested that he return to that town and try to find Lisa again and offer to help. He eventually located her. He discovered that she was but one of a number of girls in that town in similar circumstances who were being exploited by the pimps and drug pushers. He was so moved by Lisa's plight that he took her home to his family, and that started a ministry to try and get those girls off the streets. Out of that simple beginning over a cup of coffee that man now has three full-time workers and has seen scores of girls come off the streets and get their lives back together. The ministry became so successful that it earned that man a Presidential citation.
Ron Clark

And who is my neighbour?

In terms of novelty and surprise the parable of the Good Samaritan is excellent. In the course of the story it tells us that, seeing the battered man, the priest ‘passed by’. So, too, the Levite ‘passed by’. Like the lawyer, both these know the law and will recite it even in their sleep. Yet, a Samaritan... who by no stretch of imagination can be called ‘neighbour’ – “was moved by compassion”. This compassion isn’t just an act of charity like flinging a coin into a beggar’s bowl. It involves relationship. Says the Samaritan, “Look after him, and on my way back I’ll make good any extra expenses!” The term “Good Samaritan” has entered our vocabulary. Jesus invites us to be one. But I have innumerable excuses to “Pass by” –no time, no money, not now, I’m tired! It’ll involve a police case! I’ve got to go for mass! Let someone else help! Suppose that man is only pretending to be wounded? What will people think if I take a battered woman on my motorbike? Alas, I “pass by” often.
Francis Gonsalves in ‘Sunday Seeds for Daily Deeds”

Einstein’s little neighbor

When Einstein fled Nazi Germany, he came to America and bought an old two-storey house within walking distance of Princeton University. There he entertained some of the most distinguished people of his day and discussed with them issues as far ranging as physics to human rights. But Einstein had another frequent visitor. She was a ten-year old girl named Emmy. Emmy heard that a very kind man who knew a lot about mathematics had moved into her neighbourhood. Since she was having trouble with her fifth grade mathematics she decided to visit the man and ask for help. Einstein was willing and told her she was welcome to come anytime she needed help. A few weeks later, one of her neighbours told Emmy’s mother that Emmy was often seen entering the house of the world famous physicist. Horrified, she told Emmy that Einstein was a very important man, whose time was valuable and he shouldn’t be bothered with the problems of a little school girl. Her mother then rushed over to Einstein’s house and on seeing Einstein started to blurt out an apology for her daughter’s intrusion -for being such a bother. But Einstein cut her off. He said, “She has not been bothering me! When a child finds such joy in learning, then it is my joy to help her learn! Please don’t stop Emmy from coming to me with her school problems. She is welcome to this place anytime.” –And that is how it is with God! He wants us to come to His house anytime!

John Pichappilly in ‘The Table of the Word’

Finding God in my neighbor

One American family was travelling in their motor home through Alaska, when the axle broke and they were stranded in the middle of nowhere. So the father left the family in their motor home and began to walk in search of help. To his good luck, he came upon an isolated farmhouse. He knocked on the door and a very friendly farmer responded. When he learned of the man’s distress, the farmer just patted him on the shoulder and said he could help him. Without wasting a minute, he got into his tractor, drove out and towed the motor house to his yard. And then, in a very short time, he used his welder and fixed the problem. The American family was extremely relieved and grateful. Taking out his wallet the father of the family offered to pay, but the farmer would have none of it. “It was my pleasure.” was all he said. “As you can see, I live in isolation and often do not see anybody for weeks and even months. You have given me the pleasure of your company for the last two hours. That is more than adequate compensation.” The American family was greatly impressed to encounter such noble and selfless generosity. It certainly enhanced their belief in the essential goodness of human beings.
James Valladares in ‘Your Words, O Lord, Are Spirit, and They Are Life’

The Samaritan Impulse

One of the most prolific writers of his time, a genius blessed with a powerful brain, was the Englishman, G. K. Chesterton. He was a journalist, a poet, a novelist, radio broadcaster, public debater, and theologian. So great were the demands on his talents that he died at the age of 62 from heart fatigue and exhaustion. Such was his contribution to emerging Catholicism in England that the cause for his beatification is being promoted within the Church there. He once stated that the English secularised culture of his day retained, in spite of everything, values which were deep-rooted in Christianity. One such value must surely be that of the good Samaritan. In fact it was in England that the group called “The Samaritans” originated. The enduring impact of Jesus’ parable of the “Good Samaritan” is all the more extraordinary when we remember that for the Jews the Samaritans were anything but good. Instead they looked on them as being despicable renegades from the Jewish faith. They even accused Jesus himself of being a Samaritan and possessed by a devil (Jn 8:48).

We would do well to consider the significance of the parable for us here and now. What is certain is that Jesus used this unusual story to bring home to us in a dramatic way the most important, the most all-embracing quality he requires of his followers. The importance of Jesus’ parable lies in its context. It is the answer to a specific question – who is my neighbour to whom I must show as much love as to myself? The answer is brought home forcibly to the Jewish lawyer who put the question. Everyone without exception, even such as the despised Samaritan, must be regarded as a neighbour.

We could ask ourselves what the Samaritan had to gain personally from his act of charity. The answer, in material terms, is precisely nothing. The whole point is that love which is really and truly love, is disinterested. Indeed where is the merit in being good only to friends, who will obviously reward you in return, should the need arise? Christian love must embrace everyone. Secondly, if you do not show love to the neighbour whom you see, then no matter what commandments you keep, what ritual sacrifices you join in, as did the priest and Levite in the parable, you become incapable of loving God, whom you cannot see. This is something which St John reiterates again and again. If you want to join in the Eucharistic banquet and receive God’s Son into your heart, then you must first cleanse your heart of all hatred, bitterness, ill-will, because the God we receive in this sacrament is love. 

Communicating the Law of Love

A strong theme integrating these readings is the primacy of Jesus in the Father’s communication of the law of love. The passage from Deut. 30 is a fine example of how the people of Israel treasured the Mosaic Law, the Torah, as God’s clear and privileged communication of his will. This is a splendid set-up for observing the quantum leap that occurs in Christian consciousness when the post-Easter believers understand the person and the word of Jesus as fulfilling and even supplanting and surpassing the Torah. The gospel text presents a sample of that. Here, as in the Sermon on the Mount (Mt. 5:43-48), Jesus begins from, and then deepens profoundly, the Old Testament teaching of love. The Colossian reading – with its celebration of Jesus as image of the invisible God, head of the body, the locus of cosmic “fullness,” the reconciler of all – this supports the idea of Jesus as God’s most complete communication of himself.

But all this is in the background. Jesus’ teaching itself, the famous parable, will obviously be the centerpiece of any homily this weekend. The best service the preacher can do is to help the worshippers hear the story afresh. The key here is recovering the shock of the identity of the hero, a Samaritan. These people were the outcasts in first-century Palestine. Since they had intermarried with the occupying Assyrians in the 8th century B.C. they were considered a mongrel breed. And because they kept a separate tradition of the Torah and conducted a competing temple worship on Mount Gerizim (see Jn. 4:20-22), theirs was considered a corrupt form of Judaism. (See Sirach 50:25-26 for the traditional Hebrew attitude toward Samaritans.) For a Samaritan, a suspect stranger in Judea, to deal with an injured Jew would have been an act of unexplainable compassion and an unthinkable risk.

Some social analogy may help here. In his Cotton Patch Version of Luke and Acts: Jesus’ Doing and the Happenings, Clarence Jordan sets the scene in southern U.S.A. and retells the story as being about a black man aiding a white victim. Others have compared the situation of the Samaritan carrying the victim to the inn to that of a plains Indian in 1890 riding into a small town with a scalped cowboy on his horse. This catches the element of risk. Another analogy: a pastor working in the Middle East confessed that never once was he even tempted to tell Palestinians a story about a noble Israeli.

The point is to find a social parallel which will bring this story home to one’s own congregation. Note the significant shift between the lawyer’s question (Who is my neighbour?) and Jesus’ question (Which proved neighbour to the victim?). The lawyer wants a definition to comfortably limit his duty. Jesus cuts through word game: our neighbour is any human being in need. How this is specifically to be applied is up to the insight of the homilist and the listeners. Here God’s guiding Torah comes through the person and teaching of Jesus. 

What kind of people are these?

Newspapers and the other media tend to leave us with a rather depressing picture of human nature, which would seem bent on war, destruction, social and political injustice, and on all types and forms of immorality. That, of course, is what is seen as making news. But it should blind none of us from being more aware in our daily lives of the basic goodness of human nature, and of noting the many selfless and quite unnoticed acts of love and charity. And by being positive about our human nature and its capabilities for good, we become more aware of our own potential to love selflessly. This is what Jesus tries to help the lawyer to experience. Instead of giving him a dictionary definition of “neighbour,” he presents him with the parable about the Samaritan who acts not out of a sense of duty or of guilt, but out of sheer love and generosity. Though we are not told, we can hope that the lawyer is fired with enthusiasm to live in a similar manner.

We could, of course, concentrate on the negative elements of the parable – the brigands, the priest and the levite. But this would be to miss the point, and we end up falling into the trap of the press and the media.

The emphasis in the parable upon the positive capabilities of human nature – even in people not normally expected to display such characteristics – takes up the overall thrust of Deuteronomy.  Quite often, as Christians, we approach this book of the Old Testament with a certain lack of enthusiasm, noting its negative stipulations and its prohibitions. Yet to concentrate on this aspect would again lead to distortion. For Deuteronomy, expressed as a summary of Moses” instructions, is God’s teaching to Israel on how to live a life of love and charity. Deuteronomy repeatedly emphasises God’s undying and unchanging love for his people, and from this perspective urges its hearers to respond in kind, They are to live a life of love for God and for their neighbour, defined above all by the trio of the stranger, the widow, and the orphan. These were the people most in need of charity in the community of Israel, and the idea is that, if one is charitable to them, then one is charitable to all without exception.

Sometimes, as professing Christians, we get impatient with ourselves that we are not always living out the life of love demanded by Deuteronomy and in the parable of the Good Samaritan, and that the priest and the levite are still within us. Our impatience is fired by the type of societies in which most of us live, ones that demand quick results. We are conditioned by advertising techniques: we expect that the pain-killers we buy will work instantly, that a brand of washing powder will cleanse instantly of all stain, that fast foods will not only be fast but nutritious, and so on. Perfection in love is usually not so instant. We could do well to remember that the instructions of Deuteronomy were given while still on the way to the Promised Land, and that the parable of the Lord is told while the disciples are still making their way with him to Jerusalem. The “journey” element can remind us that love and charity are part of the journey of faith. And, as with many journeys, there are stops and even wrong turnins. It is when we get bogged down at such stages that we lose our sense of direction and our infinite capacity to love. 

Vertical and horizontal religion

This is a enriching gospel, containing the two great commandments, and an excellent story to illustrate exactly what the two commandments are about. To reflect on this gospel is to get to the core of the message.

Several days after the Titanic sank in the North Atlantic, a newspaper carried two pictures side by side. The first showed the side of the ship slashed open by a massive iceberg. The caption read “The weakness of man, the supremacy of nature.” The second picture showed a passenger giving up his place on a lifeboat to a woman with a child in her arms. The caption read “The weakness of nature, the supremacy of man.” Today’s gospel points to a balance between God and neighbour, between a vertical religion, that includes only God, and myself and a horizontal religion, which includes only my neighbour and me.

It is important to notice that the questioner was trying to catch Jesus, to see if he would say anything that was contrary to the law, which they held with such intensity. Jesus’ reply was “What does the law say?” Jesus is prepared to meet him on his own terms. The man quoted the law about loving God and loving neighbour, and Jesus said “Fair enough. Do that, and you’re on your way to heaven.” Later on, of course, Jesus would further refine the commandments to one new commandment: “Love one another as I love you.”

Jesus was a born teacher. He usually began with something that was quite familiar to his listeners, and he used that to bring them to a new insight into what he wanted them to learn. The road from Jerusalem to Jericho was infamous for bandits and robbers, and any one who travelled that road on his own was certainly taking a great risk. He told a story about this road to highlight what he meant by love of one’s neighbour. A neighbour is not just someone who happens to live on the same block. It is someone who is regarded as one who should be friendly. A true neighbour can always be depended on. It is not a question of where the other lives. When I come into your presence I become your neighbour, and I am in a position to help, should such be needed.

One thing we must notice about the Samaritan in the story: When he began something, he saw it through. It is easy to throw a few coins into the hat of a beggar, and then pass on down the road. It is different when I share a compassion for the other, feel the pain and isolation, and I want to accompany the other to security and healing. That is love, which is more personal and “touching” than mere charity, which can be quite cosmetic and sanitised.

A good way of looking at my life is to check on the balance between the vertical and the horizontal, between how I approach and see God, and how I approach and see my neighbour. “Whatever you do to the least of these, that’s what you do unto me.” “If you bring your gift to the altar, and there you remember that someone has been hurt by you, go first, and be reconciled with that person, and then come and offer your gift.”


1.     Integrating Samaritans 

In 1967, Conway High School in South Carolina was ordered integrated by the Supreme Court.  The next fall, after years of fighting integration, the all-white high school finally took in its first black students.

Cheryl was one of five black teenagers assigned to Conway.  The day before classes were to begin, Cheryl cried and cried.  “I want to be with my own friends,” she pleaded with her parents.  “Please don’t make me go.  Please, please.”

But her Mom and Dad, both highly-respected public school teachers, embraced their daughter.  “Cheryl,” her dad said, “you’ve got to go, not only for your sake, but for the sake of your mother and father, and for the sake of your children that you will have someday.  Separate schools are not equal schools, Cheryl.  Go and try it for us.”

Cheryl finally agreed to go to the white school.  The first day the teachers were nice, but none of the other students said a word to her.  She could see from the corner of her eye the glares of the white teenagers.  The only white student who said anything to her called her a bad name.  It was a very lonely and painful time for Cheryl, but her parents encouraged her to keep trying.

To get to the school bus, neighborhood students crossed a white man’s yard.  There was never a problem.  At first, Cheryl avoided walking across the man’s yard; but all the other kids walked across the lawn, so one day she thought she’d take the short cut, too.  When the owner of the property saw her, he yelled “Get off my lawn, you black . . . “  You can imagine the rest.

That was it for Cheryl.  “They don’t want me there, and I don’t want to go there.”                    
Finally her parents agreed.  “OK, Cheryl, you’ve tried.  Finish the week and we’ll see about getting you transferred back to your own school.”

That made Cheryl happier than she had been in a long time.  She would only have to ride the school bus four more times.  But the next morning on the bus, a white girl named Cindy made a point of sitting next to her.  Tears were in her eyes. 

“Cheryl,” she said, “I’m real sorry that old man yelled at you for walking across his nasty old yard.”

Cheryl and Cindy began a long conversation that lasted all day at school and continued when they rode the bus home that afternoon.  They became good friends — and still are.  Cheryl decided to stay at Conway High School, making all As and Bs, and went on to the University of South Carolina.  Today, Cheryl and her husband are pillars of the Conway community — the white and black Conway community.

[From a sermon by the Rev. Canon William Barnwell at Washington National Cathedral, July 15, 2007.] 

Who is my neighbor?  The Good Samaritans who cross over to the other side to bring healing and hope . . . the Cheryls who have the courage to put aside their own fears and anguish to bring about what is best for the community . . . the Cindys who stand up for those who are put down . . . the people of a community who struggle to learn the lessons of justice and compassion "taught" by Cheryl and Cindy and the many other Good Samaritans in our midst.  “My neighbor” is every one of us who sees one another with the eyes of Christ: as sons and daughters of God, brothers and sisters in the Risen One.  
The parable of the Good Samaritan arises out of a discussion between Jesus and a Pharisee. Here is a religious lawyer and he is asking a question on the nature of the law. The stage is set by Luke with these words: "Behold a lawyer stood up to put him to the test." Well, it's not the first time and probably won't be the last time that a lawyer phrased a trick question. It was the kind of question in which any kind of an answer would pose still further problems. It was a test question: "Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life." Now right away we know that this man was a Pharisee, because the Pharisees believed in eternal life and the Sadducees did not. Jesus could tell that this man was an astute student of the law so he asked him: "What is written?" In other words, use your own mind to discern the essence of the law. Jesus, like a good discussion leader, throws the question right back in his lap.  

The lawyer had a good answer. He said: "You shall love the Lord your God with all of your heart and soul and mind and strength and you shall love your neighbor as yourself." This was a direct quote from Deuteronomy 6. It was part of the Shema, a confession regularly made in Jewish worship. Jesus says: "Excellent. You are correct." If he were a teacher I suppose he would have said: "You get A+." I have no complaint with this says Jesus. Do this and you shall live. You have not only penetrated to the essence of the law but you have worded it succinctly.  

The question had been asked and the answer given. You would think that the man would be pleased and go home. But lawyers are never happy. A lawyer's responsibility is to define the limits of liability. "But he, desiring to justify himself, asked 'Who is my neighbor.'" In other words, where does my responsibility stop? Who exactly am I responsible for?" 

At this point, instead of further defining the question, Jesus tells a story. A way of indirect teaching.

A certain rich man was going from Jerusalem to Jericho...
2.     "Mister Rogers," anyone?  

With his zippered cardigans, canvas sneakers, and handmade puppets (before there were cool "Muppets"), "Mister Rogers" was a pioneer in the early days of educational television for young children. Fred Rogers, a Presbyterian minister from Pittsburgh, started developing the characters and themes of his program in the mid-1950's. But it wasn't until 1967 that "Mister Roger's Neighborhood" took its final form and appeared on PBS stations across the country.   

This sweet, sappy, smart program stayed in production until 2001, and remained on all PBS stations until 2008. It is probably safe to say that there are very few of you listening today who couldn't sing along with the song that opened every new show - "It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood..." [If you can get your choir to sing this with you, as you lead the congregation in a short refrain, all the better]. 

As he finished tying his sneakers and zipping his cardigan, Fred Rogers would sing, "Won't you be...Won't you be... Won't you be my neighbor?"  

The concept of "neighborliness" has changed over the years. It used to be your "neighbor" was a geographic designation. In early American rural communities your nearest "neighbor" might be miles away. But those neighbors would still gather together for barn-raisings, quilting bees, and harvest times.  

In the urban environments, "neighborhoods" were composed of thousands of residents. But these "hoods" were drawn together and defined along ethnic lines - "Little Italy," "Chinatown," "the Borscht Belt." You might never meet your "neighbors," but your common ethnic identities helped create a communal, comforting environment.  

In the aftermath of the "baby boom" the suburbs were born. "Neighbors" became the people just over the fence, those circling station wagons in the same cul-de-sac. But often times these suburban "neighbors" were unknown and unconnected. Physical closeness led to the erection of psychological and emotional barriers, with no front porches, only back patios and private decks. "Pre-fabricated" neighborhoods could be very lonely places. 

In today's gospel text Jesus is confronted by a legal expert, sent specifically to "test" him on the orthodoxy of his views.
3.     Grace Is What Lifts Us 

 Jesus is saying not only that when it comes right down to it, everyone in the whole world is your neighbor. He is saying that, too. But if, as Eugene Peterson says, parables are narrative time bombs designed to explode people into new awareness, then in this case one of the pieces of shrapnel is designed to tear into the idea that the law will ever save anybody. Jesus is exposing the futility of the law as a way to inherit eternal life. After all, the Samaritan who finally reached out did so not as a result of law but of grace. The finer points of the law left the man half-dead in the ditch. It leaves us all there. Grace is what lifts the man out. Grace it what lifts all of us out. If God had not been gracious with us, we'd all still be dead.

Scott Hoezee, Comments and Observations
4.     Jesus Took the Man by the Hand 

A man fell into a pit and couldn't get himself out. A subjective person came along and said, "I feel for you down there." An objective person came along and said, "It's logical that someone would fall down there." A Pharisee said, "Only bad people fall into a pit." A mathematician calculated how he fell into the pit. A news reporter wanted an exclusive story on his pit. A fundamentalist said, "You deserve your pit." An IRS man asked if he was paying taxes on the pit. A self-pitying person said, "You haven't seen anything until you've seen my pit." A charismatic said, "Just confess that you're not in a pit." An optimist said, "Things could be worse." A pessimist said, "Things will get worse." Jesus, seeing the man, took him by the hand and lifted him out of the pit! (from Barbara Johnson, Ecunet, Homiletics) 

Keith Wagner, No Simple Task, quoting Barbara Johnson
5.     Rising to the Occasion

Have you heard the story about the elderly woman who lived in a small town in East Texas... who had car trouble on the way to the supermarket one morning? Her car stalled at a stop sign... she tried everything to get her car started again, but no luck. Suddenly, a man in a pick-up truck came up behind her and with obvious agitation he started honking his horn at her impatiently. She doubled her efforts to get her car going. She pumped the gas, turned the ignition, but still no luck... the man in the pick-up truck continued to honk his horn constantly and loudly. I love what the elderly woman did. Very calmly she got out of her car, walked back to the pick-up and motioned for the man to lower his window and then politely she said: "I'll make a deal with you. If you will start my car for me I'll be happy to honk your horn for you!"

Now, that is what you call "Rising to the occasion!" and that is precisely what Jesus does here in Luke 10. The lawyer was "testing" Jesus... honking his horn loudly. He was trying to trap Jesus and trip Him up with a loaded question... but Jesus (as He so often did) rose to the occasion and passed the test with flying colors... and in so doing... He reminded the people back then (and us today) of what is the main thing in the Christian faith.  

James W. Moore, Collected Sermons,
6.     I Certainly Don't Recommend Christianity  

I have an elderly acquaintance of about eighty, who has lived a life of unbroken selfishness and self-admiration from the earliest years, and is, more or less, I regret to say, one of the happiest men I know. From the moral point of view it is very difficult! As you perhaps know, I haven't always been a Christian. I didn't go to religion to make me happy. I always knew a bottle of Port would do that. If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable, I certainly don't recommend Christianity.

C.S. Lewis, "God in the Dock, Essays on Theology and Ethics," Grand Rapids, Eerdmans 1970, pp.58-59.
7.     Love for the Enemy 

The love for equals is a human thing--of friend for friend, brother for brother. It is to love what is loving and lovely. The world smiles.

The love for the less fortunate is a beautiful thing--the love for those who suffer, for those who are poor, the sick, the failures, the unlovely. This is compassion, and it touches the heart of the world. 

The love for the more fortunate is a rare thing--to love those who succeed where we fail, to rejoice without envy with those who rejoice, the love of the poor for the rich, of the black man for the white man. The world is always bewildered by its saints.

And then there is the love for the enemy--love for the one who does not love you but mocks, threatens, and inflicts pain. The tortured's love for the torturer. This is God's love. It conquers the world. 

Frederick Buechner in his book: The Magnificent Defeat.
8.     Chip It Away 

There is a story about a man who had a huge boulder in his front yard. He grew weary of this big, unattractive stone in the center of his lawn, so he decided to take advantage of it and turn it into an object of art. He went to work on it with hammer and chisel, and chipped away at the huge boulder until it became a beautiful stone elephant. When he finished, it was gorgeous, breath-taking. 

A neighbor asked, "How did you ever carve such a marvelous likeness of an elephant?"
The man answered, "I just chipped away everything that didn't look like an elephant!"

If you have anything in your life right now that doesn't look like love, then, with the help of God, chip it away! If you have anything in your life that doesn't look like compassion or mercy or empathy, then, with the help of God, chip it away! If you have hatred or prejudice or vengeance or envy in your heart, for God's sake, and the for the other person's sake, and for your sake, get rid of it! Let God chip everything out of your life that doesn't look like tenderheartedness. 

James W. Moore, Some Things Are Too Good Not To Be True
 By loving the unlovable, You made me lovable. 

Augustine to God
9.     The Shocking Samaritan 

Biblical scholar Kenneth Bailey paints the picture of what it meant for the Good Samaritan to take the wounded man on his own donkey, ride into town, put him up at the inn, and care for him. There's an unwritten shock in the parable of Jesus, a shock only heard by people living in the context of the story, a shock lost on us, but when Bailey changes the location and races of the characters, we today might have a better sense of the impact Jesus meant to have with this parable.

Bailey writes that the Good Samaritan is like "a Plains Indian in 1875 walking into Dodge City with a scalped cowboy on his horse, checking into a room over the local saloon, and staying the night to take care of him. Any Indian so brave would be fortunate to get out of the city alive even if he had saved the cowboy's life."

Ben Squires, Walking Into Enemy Territory with a Wounded Man on Your Horse
10.  The Secret of Our Power to Love 

Legend has it that a wealthy merchant traveling through the Mediterranean world looking for the distinguished Pharisee, Paul, encountered Timothy, who arranged a visit. Paul was, at the time, a prisoner in Rome. Stepping inside the cell, the merchant was surprised to find a rather old man, physically frail, but whose serenity and magnetism challenged the visitor. They talked for hours. Finally the merchant left with Paul's blessing. Outside the prison, the concerned man inquired, "What is the secret of this man's power? I have never seen anything like it before."

Did you not guess?" replied Timothy. "Paul is in love."
The merchant looked bewildered. "In Love?"
"Yes," the missionary answered, "Paul is in love with Jesus Christ."
The merchant looked even more bewildered. "Is that all?"
Smiling, Timothy replied, "Sir, that is everything." 

G. Curtis Jones, Illustrations For Preaching And Teaching, Nashville: Broadman, 1986, p. 225.
11.  A Prayer 

Help me, O Lord, to be more loving. Help me O Lord, not to be afraid to love the outcast, the leper, the unmarried pregnant woman, the traitor to the State, the man out of prison. Help me by my love to restore the faith of the disillusioned, the disappointed, the early bereaved. Help me by my love to be the witness of your love. And may I this coming day be able to do some work of peace for you.

Alan Paton, a South African writer, author of "Cry the Beloved Country" who made a courageous stand against racism.
12.  My Friend 

Frederick Douglass approached the front door of the White House, seeking admission into Abraham Lincoln's Second Inaugural Ball. Just as Douglass was about to knock on the door, two policemen seized him, barring the black man's entrance. Douglass, a large, powerful man, brushed the officers aside and stepped into the foyer. Once inside, two more officers grabbed the uninvited guest, all the while uttering racial slurs.

As Douglass was being dragged from the hall, he cried to a nearby patron, "Just say to Mr. Lincoln that Fred Douglass is at the door!" Confusion ensued. Then suddenly the officers received orders to usher Douglass into the East Room. In that beautiful room, the great abolitionist stood in the presence of the esteemed President. The place quieted as Lincoln approached his newly arrived guest, hand outstretched in greeting, and speaking in a voice loud enough so none could mistake his intent, the President announced, "Here comes my friend Douglass." 

The President had called Frederick Douglass friend. Who dared demean Douglass if he was a friend of the President? 

Jesus Christ, the Lord of the universe, has called us his brothers and his sisters. God has called us His own children. But not only us. Also the person who lies stripped and beaten by the side of the road. He " or she " is our friend, our neighbor. So we pause and we help, because once there was a man who paused on a cross for us.

Ronald Love
13.  The Nearest Willing Hand 

Two women were sitting in church. One woman said to the other, "I've always wished that God would touch me, but I suppose that's too much to ask."

The other woman replied, "That sounds like a reasonable desire. Have you prayed about it?"
"Well, no. Of course not."
"Why not? There's certainly nothing wrong with a prayer like that. You should pray about it."
"All right. Maybe I will sometime."
"Not sometime. Now. What better place to pray than here in the Lord's house?"

Thus persuaded, the woman reluctantly folded her hands, bowed her head and closed her eyes in prayer, asking that God would touch her. About ten seconds later the other woman gently laid her hand on the folded hands of the friend at prayer. She responded as most of us would do. She jumped and said, "He did it! He touched me." Then, after a moment’s thought "But that felt an awful lot like your hand."
"It was my hand," her friend replied.

Disappointment was on the other face. "And I thought God had touched me."
"He did touch you. How do you think God touches people? That he comes down like a fog blanket or a pillar of fire? When God touches people he takes the nearest hand and uses that."

That sounds good, doesn’t it? And it’s almost right. Almost, but not quite. She left out one word. When God touches people he takes the nearest WILLING hand and uses that. The Gospel for today is a case in point.

Carveth Mitchell, The Sign in the Subway, CSS Publishing Company.
14.  From Father Tony Kadavil’s Collection: 

a.     Arms and legs for others:  

Bob Butler lost his legs in a 1965 landmine explosion in Vietnam.  He returned home a war hero.  Twenty years later, he proved once again that heroism comes from the heart. Butler was working in his garage in a small town in Arizona on a hot summer day when he heard a woman's screams coming from a nearby house.  He began rolling his wheelchair toward the house but the dense shrubbery wouldn't allow him access to the back door.  So he got out of his chair and started to crawl through the dirt and bushes.  “I had to get there,” he says. “It didn't matter how much it hurt.”  When Butler arrived at the pool there was a three-year-old girl named Stephanie Hanes lying at the bottom.  She had been born without arms and had fallen into the water and couldn't swim.  Her mother stood over her baby screaming frantically.  Butler dove to the bottom of the pool and brought little Stephanie up to the deck. Her face was blue; she had no pulse and was not breathing. Butler immediately went to work performing CPR to revive her, while Stephanie's mother telephoned the fire department.  She was told the paramedics were already out on a call.  Helplessly she sobbed and hugged Butler's shoulder. As Butler continued with his CPR, he calmly reassured her. “Don't worry,” he said, “I was her arms to get out of the pool.  It'll be okay.  I am now her lungs.  Together we can make it.” Seconds later the little girl coughed, regained consciousness, and began to cry.  As they hugged and rejoiced together, the mother asked Butler how he knew it would be okay.  “The truth is, I didn't know,” he told her.  “But when my legs were blown off in the war, I was all alone in a field.  No one was there to help except a little Vietnamese girl.  As she struggled to drag me into her village, she whispered in broken English, ‘It okay. You can live.  I will be your legs.  Together we make it.’ Her kind words brought hope to my soul and I wanted to do the same for Stephanie.” There are simply those times when we cannot stand alone.  There are those times when we need we need a Good Samaritan, someone to be our legs, our arms, our friend. (Dan Clark) ( 

b.     Operation Smile:   

I was reading sometime back about Dr. William Magee Jr., a plastic surgeon in Norfolk, Va. In 1981, Dr. Magee traveled to the Philippines to operate on children with cleft lips and other facial deformities. Unfortunately, there were so many children with this deformity, a deformity that can render it impossible for them to speak or eat, that hundreds had to be turned away. This caused Dr. Magee and his wife to found an organization called Operation Smile. Operation Smile sends volunteer doctors to perform reconstructive facial surgery for children worldwide. “It wasn’t a strategic plan,” said Magee. “It was just a matter of emotion and passion to make sure children didn’t have to live this way.” The group, which already has treated 50,000 children worldwide, also trains doctors in other nations to perform the procedure. Magee hopes to use satellite technology in the future, so he can teach a greater number of medical professionals the necessary techniques. (The Associated Press.) Dr. Magee didn’t have to do that. He could have justified himself. “What’s in it for me? There are so many children in my own city whose parents or whose insurance company could pay for this surgery. I’m a busy doctor here. I don’t have to go halfway around the world and minister to indigent children. Not my problem.” I doubt if Dr. Magee even wondered if this act of service would get him into heaven. He simply saw a need and filled it. He became a good Samaritan encouraging fellow surgeons to become good Samaritans. 

c.     “You owe this debt to any stranger who comes  to you  in need:”  

V. P. Menon was a significant political figure in India during its struggle for independence from Britain after World War II. Menon had a splendid reputation for personal charity. His daughter explained the background of this trait after he died. When Menon arrived in Delhi to seek a job in government, all his possessions, including his money and I.D., were stolen at the railway station. He would have to return home on foot, defeated. In desperation he turned to an elderly Sikh, explained his troubles, and asked for a temporary loan of fifteen rupees to tide him over until he could get a job. The Sikh gave him the money. When Menon asked for his address so that he could repay the man, the Sikh said that Menon owed the debt not to him but to any stranger who came to him in need, as long as he lived. The help came from a stranger and was to be repaid to a stranger. Menon never forgot that debt. His daughter said that the day before Menon died, a beggar came to the family home in Bangalore asking for help to buy new sandals, for his feet were covered with sores. Menon asked his daughter to take fifteen rupees out of his wallet to give to the man. It was Menon's last conscious act. Menon ministered to strangers because a stranger had ministered to him. [Robert A. Fulgham, All I Really Need to Know I learned in Kindergarten (New York: Villard Books, 1988).]  

Why have Christians been historically so charitable, so caring? It is because once we were lying beside the road broken, and bleeding, nail-scarred hands reached down to us and ministered to us in our need. While we were unworthy, Christ the Divine Good Samaritan died for us.