15th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C
Psalm 69:14, 17, 30-31, 33-34, 36, 37 (33)
July 14, 2019
We hear the “scholar of the law” ask Jesus a question. We are told that he asked Jesus the question “to test him.” While the scholar’s motives may not be pure, the question is one we all want to know the answer to, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
We are here today because we seek eternal life. What does it take? Jesus puts the scholar’s question back to him by asking, “What is written in the law?”
The scholar responds quoting Deuteronomy 6:5, calling us to love God with “all” we have and are, and Leviticus 19:18, calling us to love our neighbor. Jesus affirms the scholar’s response. We are called to be loved and to love.
The scholar then asks, “And who is my neighbor?” Physically, our neighbor is someone who lives in the house next to us or near us. For the Jews, it would be kinsmen and other Jews. To help us understand who really is our “neighbor”, Jesus tells the Parable of the Good Samaritan.
Most of us have heard the story before, “a man fell feel victim to robbers” who “beat him and went off leaving him half-dead.”
Who would help him? First a priest came along. The priest was a man of God. He should have helped but he didn’t. Instead, “he passed by on the opposite side.” The Levite, also a servant of God does the same thing.
The third person is a Samaritan, who would have been despised by the Jews. He is the one who does the right thing and stops to help the victim.
Would you have stopped and helped the victim?
Let me tell you about an experience I had while in seminary in Washington, DC. On this particular day, I went out for my daily walk. I had barely started walking along Michigan Avenue, when I noticed a man laying on the sidewalk. I don’t like to stereotype but, for lack of a better description, I will say, “he looked homeless.”
Michigan Avenue is a major thoroughfare so there is lots of traffic but no one was stopping to help. Sadly, there are a lot of homeless in the area so people don’t pay much attention. However, it was unusual to see a person laying in the middle of the sidewalk.
Did I stop? I will be honest and say I didn’t. On a positive note, I did not cross to the opposite side like the priest and the Levite. I paused long enough to see if he looked sick or injured. He didn’t. I should have asked him if he was okay but I didn’t “heed the voice” within me and I kept on walking.
The thought of him laying on the sidewalk stayed with me the whole walk, enough that I made a point to walk past the spot on my way home but he was already gone. I hope he was okay and simply woke up and left on his own but I don’t know. Now, whenever I hear the story of the Good Samaritan, I think of that day.
What would you have done?
Some would do nothing because they “don’t want to get involved.” Others say they don’t have the means to help. Part of me might have thought that with this man in DC. I didn’t have much money and I didn’t know where to direct him to get him any help.
We are all called to help the poor. It might be financially but we wonder about helping the stranger on the street, what they might do with the money? We have two options there. First, instead of giving them money, buy them what they need so they can’t use the money for something else. Another option if you are financially able is to give to charities. Then, when you see some in need, direct them to a charity.
Another option if you can’t help financially, or want to do more, is to volunteer. I’m new here but I know there are charities around like the food pantry and Catholic Charities. We have parishioners who volunteer in prison ministry or in bringing Communion to the nursing homes and homebound just to begin to name some options.
Lastly, whether or not we are able to volunteer or to give financially, we can all pray.
When I think of the experience I described from my seminary days, I wish I had done differently. I feel like I went astray and ask God to keep me on the right path going forward.
We can all pray to ask the Lord to “open our eyes to the needs of our brothers and sisters; inspire in us words and actions” that we may love God and our neighbor.