15th Sunday C: WHO IS MY NEIGHBOUR?

Dear friends in Christ, the command to love your neighbour as yourself is a very demanding one. In the face of the unfathomable sufferings we find in our society and world today, is it possible to actually respond to the needs of other people? The story of the Good Samaritan opens our consciousness to what we can do even in the midst of the dangers around us.

First Reading (Deuteronomy 30: 10-14)

Today’s first reading looks like a teaching on the Day of Atonement or on a Day of Renewal following some disloyalty. Moses used the occasion to remind the people of the need to obey the voice of the Lord and keep His commandments and statutes. These are already written in the Book of the Law which we understand today as the first five books of the Bible (the Pentateuch). These commandments as explained by Moses are not difficult to keep and do not require any serious interpretation by any expert. This might explain the reason for the many times that Jesus had to confront the Pharisees and the Scribes for turning the Law into a burden because the laws had been so multiplied at the time of Jesus, that it became impossible for anyone to remember them all. According to Moses, “the word is very near to you; it is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it.”

As children in catechism class, we were made to memorise the ten commandments as the guide to the way we live. Many of us can still remember these laws and they are really not difficult to understand even for children. Often the complication comes from the explanations, depending on who the teacher is. If everyone can just follow these simple laws, we will surely have less problems in the world.

Second reading (Colossians 1:15-20)

Paul calls Jesus the image of the invisible God in whom all things were created in heaven and on earth both the visible and invisible. Paul here praises the divinity of Jesus in very striking words. He is the visible expression of God the Father. He is more than just a symbol, more than the law given on tablets of stone, he is a visible manifestation of the invisible God. He is before all things and he holds all things together. It is in him that the fulness of God is pleased to dwell.

 

 

Gospel (Luke 10:25-37)

The question of the Lawyer in the Gospel to Jesus is a basic one that should bother everyone, “Master what shall I do to inherit eternal life.” Luke tells us that this was a test. So Jesus asked him, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?” To show his knowledge of the law, he combined Deut. 6:5 and Lev.19:18 “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and will all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbour as yourself.”

We do not need an expert to interpret these. But the Lawyer wanted to justify himself, so he asked a further question, “And who is my neighbour?” Instead of a direct answer to this question, Jesus chose to tell a story from which everyone will be able to draw a lesson. A man who is likely a Jew, traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho fell into the hands of robbers who took all he had and left him half dead by the side of the road. That means, he was not hidden, he was where everyone passing could see. A priest saw him and passed by on the other side, so also was a Levite. But a Samaritan saw him and took pity. He bandaged his wounds after giving him first-aid treatment, took him to an inn where he paid the bills and was willing to pay more on his return, in case there is any further expense. Jesus then asked which of the three men proved himself a neighbour to the wounded man? The answer of course is, “The one who showed mercy on him.”

In the eyes of the law, the priest had done nothing wrong, he needed to maintain his purity by not touching blood or dead body. Same with the levite who may be going to arrange the liturgy of the day. Yet a Samaritan, someone a Jew will not easily associate with, decided to care for this wounded traveller. He used oil and wine, materials we also use in the celebration of sacraments. He also paid to denarii in down payment and was willing to pay more. He didn’t have to let go of his plan for the day, he just created time to care for the other person. He did what was possible, and handed the man over to the inn-keeper to do the rest. We may not have to go out to seek those who are suffering, but if we learn to open our eyes, they are all over the place. We do not have to solve all the problems, we just need to contribute what we can to help.

I have heard people talk about their ‘neighbours’, but often when they do, it is simply to refer to those who live around them–in the neighbourhood. If you ask someone to name his or her neighbours, he or she will most likely talk of those living in the next flat or apartment or the next house or on the same close or street. That’s even good except that sometimes a man may even forget to mention the spouse on the list of neighbours. House-helps are usually not considered neighbours, though they live in the same house. Jesus’ notion of a neighbour extends to anyone and everyone. Do you see those you meet on the road and in the market as your neighbours? Even today as we worship and share the words of the Lord, we have still not fully accepted Jesus’ definition of a neighbour which has got nothing to do with proximity to home or blood line but the fact that we are human beings. Every human person you come across is your neighbour. Wherever there is a need, just go ahead and do what you can to meet the person’s need, without worrying about where he or she comes from or where he or she lives.

In the logo of the Jubilee Year of Mercy, Jesus is that Good Samaritan who carries broken humanity not on his horse, but on his own shoulder, leading him from darkness into light. The Church is that Inn where broken humanity is cared for, on the price already paid by Jesus with the shedding of his blood for us. The two denarii he paid represents the scripture and the sacraments of the church with which broken humanity is restored to life. The departure of the Samaritan, stands for the death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus. The return of the Samaritan, represents the second coming of Jesus.

 

The Lord said to the Lawyer, “Go and do likewise.” Be wise like this Samaritan by showing mercy to others. Help the person in need, even when he does not deserve your assistance. Your neighbour is anyone you can be of help to. I ask you to do likewise yourself, as you go through the activities of your week. Make everyone your neighbour and live in peace with all.

Let us pray: Lord, grant us a generosity of heart like the good Samaritan to respond to the needs of those around us, Amen. May the Almighty God bless you, the Father and the son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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