Good Samaritan parable represents call to action

By Glen Argan

The parable of the good Samaritan is so familiar that it may lose its impact through our having heard it many times. Yet, it is a story on which we should never fail to meditate because it brings us face-to-face with our deepest identity. Confronted by suffering and injustice, do we talk, or do we act?

A lawyer, perhaps a member of the Temple religious aristocracy, challenges Jesus to specify who is the neighbour whom one must love in order to obtain “life.” Jesus’ response challenges the lawyer in turn. He tells of a priest and a Levite – both likely from the same social milieu as the lawyer – who pass by a man who was beaten, stripped and left half dead by the roadside.

It is a Samaritan, a despised one, who comes to the man’s rescue, going far beyond the demands of basic duty in tending to the man’s needs. Jesus, referring to the Samaritan, challenges the lawyer to “Go and do likewise.” Confronted with such a situation, the lawyer is challenged to switch his focus from interpreting the law to doing it. Further, it is those who are members of the lawyer’s social class who avoid doing what the law requires. Instead, a hated Samaritan fulfills the law. Who does the lawyer most resemble?

As such, Jesus challenges his disciples as well: are you going to talk, or will you act?

Beaten and homeless people are with us always, a fact the priest and Levite appear to have accepted. The underlying assumption: we ought not be overly concerned with their plight. The Samaritan, however, understands God’s truth – there is this beaten, half-dead man, and he has immeasurable dignity. The issue is not humanity, it is this man.

Not surprisingly, the lawyer wants to justify himself. Don’t we all? Don’t we all want to prove our innocence. If blame is to be laid, it should be laid elsewhere. But the parable punctures the balloon of self-imputed innocence. The lawyer – and we – have nowhere to look but at ourselves. In the face of the horrors of our time, in the face of immediate situations of crying need, do we act or fail to act?

St. Luke’s Gospel presents the command to love God and to love one’s neighbour as two sides of one commandment. Loving God means loving your neighbour since the neighbour is God’s creature. If you love God, it will be revealed through your actions.

Sunday Readings for the 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time, July 14, 2019
Deuteronomy 30.10-14 | Psalm 69 or Psalm 19 | Colossians 1.15-20 | Luke 10.25-37

See more articles like this at On the Threshold.

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