This Sunday's Gospel is the beloved story of the Good Samaritan. We have diluted the force of this engagement between the scholar of the law (likely a scribe) and Jesus. The whole incident stems from the scribe trying to test Jesus - asking a question that he thinks Jesus may not be able to answer, or for which he might provide the wrong answer. The question is, "What must I do to inherit eternal life?" (v. 25). In other words, "what must I do to be recognized as God's child?" After all, it is children who do the inheriting, normally.
- Jesus said to him, "What is written in the law? How do you read it?"
- He said in reply, "You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself."
- He replied to him, "You have answered correctly; do this and you will live."
- But because he wished to justify himself, he said to Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?"
It is that question about eternal life that the story of the Good Samaritan is still answering, along with the question, "and who is my neighbor?" And the story leads Jesus to turn around the lawyer's question. It's no longer, "who is my neighbor?" but "to whom must you become a neighbor?" The lawyer realizes that one must become a neighbor to anyone and everyone in need. To be recognized as God's child seems to mean we reach out with compassion to all people, even to our enemies - just as God reached out to us in Jesus, even when we were still sinners. St. Paul put it this way, "God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us." (Rom 5:8)
With all the anger, name-calling, and character assassination found on the blogosphere and in public discourse in general, we might take this story of Jesus to heart. It's one thing to be zealous about the Faith, but it is a terrible thing to use that zeal as justification for hatred for people. And there's very little "loving the sinner, hating the sin" going on around the blogosphere or in society. St. Paul, perhaps remembering the answer to the question Jesus put to the scribe, warns us, "The whole law is fulfilled in one statement, namely, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself. But if you go on biting and devouring one another, beware that you are not consumed by one another." (Gal 5:15)
Another thought to take home this weekend. If Jesus were to tell you this story, who would take the place of the Samaritan as the hated group? A liberal? A conservatives? A gay or lesbian? An illegal immigrants? A child molester? Try reading that Gospel and inserting that group, and see how uncomfortable it makes you feel! That's a call to conversion.