Gospel Reflection – “Go and do likewise”
God’s love and mercy extends to all
Jesus told a parable to show how wide God’s love and mercy is towards every fellow human being. Jesus’ story of a brutal highway robbery was all too familiar to his audience. The road from Jerusalem to Jericho went through a narrow winding valley surrounded by steep rocky cliffs. Many wealthy Jews from Jerusalem had winter homes in Jerico. This narrow highway was dangerous and notorious for its robbers who could easily ambush their victim and escape into the hills. No one in his right mind would think of traveling through this dangerous highway alone. It was far safer to travel with others for protection and defense.
Our prejudice gets in the way of mercy
So why did the religious leaders refuse to give any help when they saw a half-dead victim lying by the roadside? Didn’t they recognize that this victim was their neighbor? And why did a Samaritan, an outsider who was despised by the Jews, treat this victim with special care at his own expense as he would care for his own family? Who was the real neighbor who showed brotherly compassion and mercy? Jesus makes the supposed villain, the despised Samaritan, the merciful one as an example for the status conscious Jews. Why didn’t the priest and Levite stop to help? The priest probably didn’t want to risk the possibility of ritual impurity. His piety got in the way of charity. The Levite approached close to the victim, but stopped short of actually helping him. Perhaps he feared that bandits were using a decoy to ambush him. The Levite put personal safety ahead of saving his neighbor.
God expects us to be merciful as he is merciful
What does Jesus’ story tell us about true love for one’s neighbor? First, we must be willing to help even if others brought trouble on themselves through their own fault or negligence. Second, our love and concern to help others in need must be practical. Good intentions and showing pity, or empathizing with others, are not enough. And lastly, our love for others must be as wide and as inclusive as God’s love. God excludes no one from his care and concern. God’s love is unconditional. So we must be ready to do good to others for their sake, just as God is good to us.
Quote from the early church fathers: God desires to be our neighbor, by Augustine of Hippo, 354-430 A.D.
“God our Lord wished to be called our neighbor. The Lord Jesus Christ meant that he was the one who gave help to the man lying half-dead on the road, beaten and left by the robbers. The prophet said in prayer, ‘As a neighbor and as one’s own brother, so did I please ‘ (Psalm 34:14 ). Since the divine nature is far superior and above our human nature, the command by which we are to love God is distinct from our love of our neighbor. He shows mercy to us because of his own goodness, while we show mercy to one another because of God’s goodness. He has compassion on us so that we may enjoy him completely, while we have compassion on another that we may completely enjoy him. (excerpt from CHRISTIAN INSTRUCTION 33)
Text and reflections, courtesy and used with permission – http://dailyscripture.servantsoftheword.org