Pentecost - Twelfth Sunday After (20th Sunday in Ordinary Time)
"The Good Samaritan"
By Rev. Stephen Murphy
The good Samaritan is compassion personified. The parable of the good Samaritan is a portrayal of Christ's merciful love for men. It is the pattern on which we are to form the love of God and neighbor.
A - A man, stripped by robbers, wounded and lying half dead on the highway between Jerusalem and Jericho, is the object of compassion.
Two ministers of the Jewish faith, both fresh from sacrificing in the temple, happened to travel the same road. They were horrified when they saw the man in such a pitiable state. They beheld his life-blood streaming from open gashes in his writhing limbs. Yet they did not venture to stretch forth a hand to raise him up. "What's the use? He is beyond human aid," each said to himself, "I have not enough for the needs of my own journey. Further, by tarrying here, my life is placed in the hands of those lurking bandits." And the sacred ministers hurried on in mortal dread lest they themselves should be implicated in this bloody deed. Were they justified in their minds for their unfeeling conduct? We are bound to say not. The voice of conscience surely warned them that their failure to comfort a dying man was the selfish crime of craven and hardened hearts.
How refreshing, by contrast, is the self-forgetting compassion of the good Samaritan! In presence of his suffering fellow creature, expiring in his blood, he did not remember that he belonged to an alien race. He quite forgot that the poor stranger belonged to the race of Jews who hated the Samaritans so intensely, cursed them in their synagogues and would exclude them from a place in the resurrection of life. nor did he take into account the personal risk and inconvenience he incurred. Bending over the prostrate man, he assuaged the agony of his wounds with a soothing mixture of wine and oil. He stanched the blood flow with strips torn from his own mantle. The helpless form he raised aloft on his own breast till he reached a wayside inn where friendly shelter was provided against the burning heat and wind. What more could he do, when after supplying all immediate wants of the sick man, he promised the host a generous reward for whatever was necessary for his complete recovery?
B - The holy Fathers are almost unanimous in declaring that the parable of the good Samaritan is a portrayal of Christ's mission when He came to redeem the world.
The traveler, waylaid on the highway, is the human race. We see man stripped of his original justice by the old serpent, the devil, who was a robber and murderer from the beginning (John viii, 44). The life of his soul is fast expiring because of many a vicious passion and mortal stroke received from his encounter with hell. And this is the outcome of his misfortune when he turned his heart toward the wicked world, toward Jericho, the city of malediction (Josue vi, 26), after deserting his true city, Jerusalem, the city of the vision of peace.
The best that was in the Jewish religion - the priesthood itself - could not excite pity sufficient to lift up and restore this fallen creature. The compassionate heart of the Savior alone could accomplish this miracle of love. Like the Samaritan on the highway near Jericho, His task of mercy was the greater because man belonged to a hostile race, guilty of manifold outrages against the majesty of heaven. But being the true Samaritan, Christ did not shrink from the dangers and personal sufferings inseparable from His mission of salvation. He did not despair, though the case of man seemed hopeless, though his powers seemed too weakened to be revived. The remedy applied, like mingling of wine and oil, were the ruddy drops shed on Calvary and the anointing of the Holy Spirit. The ligaments with which He bound up the sores were strips from His own vesture - the Sacraments with His proper virtue. Happy the human being, sick unto death, who is borne to the inn by the heavenly Physician and tenderly cared for in the House of God! Happy the pastors of the Church who will be munificently rewarded, on the Savior's return, for the care they bestow upon the suffering souls confided to them by Christ!
C - Two practical applications may be made from the parable of the good Samaritan: One regarding the manner in which we are to love God; the other, regarding the esteem we should have for our neighbor.
As Christ, who is God, set no bounds to his love for men, we likewise must not limit our love of God. We know that Christ contained in Himself the Godhead corporally. He possessed, by His own right, the plenitude of the divine blessings. Like the precious ointment contained in the vase of Magdalen, these Divine blessings were enclosed in His Sacred Humanity. And when this Humanity was broken on Calvary, the gifts of heaven were poured out upon mankind, filling the world with its sweet aroma. What more could the Son of God have given us when, on the Cross, he sacrificed His Humanity and placed within our reach all the most excellent gifts? "Greater love than this no man hath, that a man lay down his life for his friends" (John xv, 13). Though by loving in return we may not repay all our debt to Christ, nevertheless let us be content with ever loving Him as much as we can. It is thus we will best fulfill the Divine precept. "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with all they strength, and with all thy mind" (Luke x, 27).
The second practical application of the parable is this - that we should love our neighbor as we love our own selves. The love of self will be according to reason and Divine faith when we rightly esteem the dignity we possess in as much as we are made to the image and likeness of God. Our immortal souls are capable of knowing and loving the Divine beauty and of enjoying the beatific vision. And if we entertain a proper respect and esteem for the majesty of God, we will hold in the highest regard the image of God that we bear within ourselves. To preserve the nobility of that image intact, to keep its purity undefiled, we should be ready to make every sacrifice and endure any hardship whatsoever. We should show no less readiness when called upon, by the law of charity, to make sacrifices for another human being. The good Samaritan has set us an example in this regard. Christ has also set us an example in dying for all of us and each one of us in particular. We are bound to follow in His footsteps, assisting in the measure of our powers, our suffering brethren, and helping them to reach heaven. There they are destined to be our companions when we repose in the everlasting love of God. There the measure of our happiness will be according to the charity we have in this world displayed toward God and our neighbor.