Gospel Text: Luke 10:25-37
vs.25 There was a lawyer who, to disconcert Jesus, stood up and said to him, “Master, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
vs.26 He said to him, “What is written in the Law? What do you read there?”
vs.27 He replied, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbour as yourself.”
vs.28 “You have answered right,” said Jesus, “do this and life is yours.”
vs.29 But the man was anxious to justify himself, and said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbour?”
vs.30 Jesus replied, “A man was once on his way down from Jerusalem to Jericho and fell into the hands of brigands; they took all he had, beat him and then made off, leaving him half dead.
vs.31 Now a priest happened to be traveling down the same road, but when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side.
vs.32 In the same way, a Levite who came to the place saw him, and passed by on the other side.
vs.33 But a Samaritan traveler who came upon him was moved with compassion when he saw him.
vs.34 He went up and bandaged his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them. He then lifted him on to his own mount, carried him to the inn and looked after him.
vs.35 Next day, he took out two denarii and handed them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said ‘and on my way back I will make good any extra expense you have.’
vs.36 Which of these three, do you think, proved himself a neighbour to the man who fell into the brigands’ hands?”
vs.37 “The one who took pity on him” he replied. Jesus said to him, “Go, and do the same yourself.”
We have four commentators available from whom you may wish to choose .
Michel DeVerteuil : A Trinidadian Holy Ghost Priest, director of the Centre of Biblical renewal .
Thomas O’Loughlin: He is on the theology faculty of Nottingham University
Sean Goan: Studied scripture in Rome, Jerusalem and Chicago and teaches at Blackrock College and works with Le Chéile.
Donal Neary SJ: Editor of The Sacred Heart Messenger
Michel de Verteuil
Lectio Divina The Year of Luke
General Textual Comments
The gospel text for the Sunday is taken mainly with the parable of the Good Samaritan, one of the most famous of all of Jesus’ parables.
A familiar text like this one poses problems for meditation, however – we know it so well that we tend to take for granted what it will be saying to us. You must make an effort to come to it as if for the first time.
As with all parables, enter into the movement until you recognise the specific moment which you can identify with, and then allow that moment to reveal something to you about life, about your relationship with God, and the work of his grace.
It is a complex story, with many themes woven into it. There is the fact that a Samaritan is involved; the contrast between him and the priest and Levite (vs.31 and 32); the double aspect of his response – compassion on the one hand (vs.33) and very practical steps on the other (vs. 34 and 35).
Understand where the priest and the Levite were coming from. According to Jewish law, touching a dead body made a person unclean (Numbers 19:11-13). If the man happened to be dead, the priest and the Levite, who were on their way to the temple in Jerusalem, could not have officiated at the temple; therefore they could not take the risk of helping the man.
The parable is set within a dialogue between Jesus and a lawyer (vs. 25 to 29, and 36 to 37). Feel free to focus on this dialogue, identifying with Jesus, the ideal spiritual guide, or with the lawyer, symbol of all of us when we come to God (or to people) seeking to justify ourselves.
Lord, often in our prayer we ask you questions,
but deep down we want to justify ourselves
– our inertia, our self-righteousness, our secret racism or snobbishness.
We thank you that you continue to be Jesus for us,
entering into dialogue with us, letting us come to our own conclusions,
occasionally giving us a push by saying, “Go and do the same thing yourself.”
Lord, forgive us that as a Church we remain wrapped up in our concerns,
– changes in the liturgy,
– which are the most powerful prayers,
– who should be bishops,
– where parish boundaries should be set,
when all the while down the same road we are walking,
people have fallen into the hands of brigands
who have left them half-dead.
“Love is a resurrection person scooping up the dust and chanting ‘live!'” …Emily Dickinson
Lord, we remember with gratitude a time in our lives when we felt beaten up,
half-dead at the side of the road.
Several people travelled down the same road and saw us
but passed by on the other side.
We thank you, Lord, for that person who came upon us,
saw us and was moved with compassion.
The person was a Samaritan but somehow that did not seem to matter.
All we knew was that our wounds were being bandaged
and oil and wine poured on them,
that we were being lifted up and carried to an inn,
were being looked after and no one was being inconvenienced.
Lord, thank you for that good Samaritan;
help us to do the same for others ourselves.
“We can get along, we’ve got to; let’s try to work it out.” … Rodney King, during the Los Angeles riots, May 1992
Lord, we remember societies torn apart
on the grounds of race, religion, culture or class,
– Northern Ireland, the Middle East, Syria Sudan,
and the ghettos of North America, Africa and Europe.
We thank you that in all these communities there are Samaritans,
quite unconcerned whether someone is a Jew or not,
just moved with compassion for a brother or sister
beaten and lying half-dead at the side of the road.
We pray that those who hear their stories will go and do the same themselves.
“I go to church and just relax with my God. I relax and gather my strength in the Lord.” …Emma Mashinimi, South African trade unionist, January 1992
Lord, prayer is feeling well and truly beaten
and lying half-dead on the side of the road,
seeing Church officials passing by on the other side,
then suddenly experiencing that you yourself are moved with compassion for us,
that our wounds are being bandaged, and oil and wine are being poured on them,
and knowing that we will be looked after not merely now but for the future.
“Your cloister must be the streets of the city and your chapel the parish church.” …St. Vincent de Paul, founder of the first active order of religious
Lord, we thank you for the many religious
who serve you by travelling the roads
so that they come upon those lying on the side of the road,
bandage their wounds and pour oil and wine on them,
and inspire others to go and do the same themselves.
“We let ideas contend, but there must ultimately be an end to contention; there comes a time for decisions.” …West Indian Commission, Report on West Indian Unity, June 1992
Lord, our leaders spend time asking theoretical question,
often because they are anxious to justify themselves.
Send us people who will tell them about the Samaritans in our society
who care for those who have been beaten up and are lying half-dead on our roads,
and then challenge them to go and do the same themselves.
Liturgical Resources for the Year of Luke
Introduction to the Celebration
We live in the age of the sound bite: a snappy phrase that covers over a complex situation; and rarely in matters of faith is such a sound-bite possible. Yet today at our gathering to join the Lord at his table we are asked to recall one of the most famous sound bites of all time. A lawyer stands up to ask Jesus a question:
‘Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?’ And as the good teacher Jesus does not just feed him the answer but draws it out from him: ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbour as yourself.’ It sounds simple. But keeping both dimensions, loving God and loving your neighbour is difficult; and an even bigger challenge is making sure that for us neighbour is more than the people we like, and so excludes all forms of sectarianism, racism, other barriers humans tend to set up between us and ‘them’.
This section can be split into two parts: verses 25-28 (the lawyer’s question) and verses 29-37 (the story of ‘the Good Samaritan’). The first section is common to all the synoptics, but the story is only found in Luke and it is clear that he wanted the whole scene (today’s gospel reading) seen as a single piece. The opening section is the demand to have a rule of thumb that distills the whole law to its essence. The context demanded that the distillation be itself part of the law, and so Jesus’s answer is made up of a combination of two quotations: first, Dt 6:5 (‘you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might’); and, second, a part of Lev19:18 (‘you shall love your neighbour as yourself’). However, Luke wants to show that this love of neighbour that Jesus preached was far more demanding than anything that was normally expected as part of the law. Luke knew that the whole verse of Lev 19:18 had a very restrictive meaning that would not sit at all well with the universalism of love that Jesus preached. The whole verse runs: ‘You shall not take vengeance or bear any grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ The neighbour is the people in your own group, camp, area: it is a demand that exists to stop local strife and vendettas of one sort or another. So the new meaning of love that Jesus preached and the new extension of the domain of fraternal care that was part of the Christian message needed a question to draw out its implications. Hence, Luke gives us the lawyer’s question. The response is not a parable in the normal manner but a hypothetical case whose purpose is to elicit an awareness of the new Jesus-way of being a neighbour. However, there is a curious twist in the tail: it is not who we, the audience, think has acted in the new way of being a neighbour, but who would the one who had received help recognise as a neighbour. It is the action of love, not the boundaries of tribe, race, social status, or cult, which establish the boundaries in the kingdom.
1. The story of the Good Samaritan has become part of our overall culture: even people who reject Christianity or for whom the gospel is only a dim background noise can use the phrase’ a good Samaritan’ and simply mean someone who helps out someone when they are in need. So the story has become simply the message to give a hand to anyone you come across in a crisis. The story’s very familiarity hides its punch. And it is trying to get to its deeper challenge that is the task facing the preacher today: to take the familiar and show how little it is known.
2. We have several ideas in our minds about this scene and the story Jesus told to bring out in a concrete situation his teaching. The first is that the message of the Good Samaritan is that one should be a decent person and help anyone in need. This is a valid and important point but that is not the message here. Then, second, we think of the hypocrisy of the priest and the Levite who were the public face of religion, and hypocrisy in professional religious is especially loathsome, so it is a warning about preaching and not practising. Again, this is a valid and important point but that is not the message here. Then, third, we tend to make the message of Jesus here the same as that of the Golden Rule – ‘do as you would have others do onto you’ – which is the basis of many codes of morality and which is found in the gospels (e.g. Lk 6:31: ‘And as you wish that men would do to you, do so to them’). Yet again, this is a valid and important point but that is not the message here.
3. The story is not about how to treat others in a passive sense; it is to draw out that the call to inherit eternal life is the call to love others. This is a deliberate act of reaching out to others in need. And the question then becomes how far can you expect to reach out and from how far away can you accept the reach of love.
4. The priest and the Levite are both automatically insiders to the group: they should be obviously neighbours. They know the law and the prophets; they know they have a duty of service to the community of Israel. The Samaritan, by contrast, is the perfect outsider: by race for they were seen as halfbreeds; they were invaders and thieves of land; and they were heretics.
5. Love of neighbour has to reach out beyond our bounds and accept love from beyond our barriers. It has to be greater than racism; it has to be greater than national boundaries and the hatreds that these produce; and it has to be greater than purity boundaries and the prejudices of religion and sectarianism.
6. Loving neighbour as self supposes that one can interchange one’s position with any other human being, and be willing to both give and receive love.
7. We tend to praise the Samaritan and say that he was a good neighbour – and indeed he was for he showed mercy. But look a little more closely at the end of the story. Who exactly has found a neighbour? It is the beaten up insider who has discovered a neighbour. Where? In the one who showed mercy – despite the fact that he is one of those wretched Samaritans?
8. It is worth reading over the story again so that the homily’s notes on the text can be fixed within the matrix of the story. The demands of loving God as a disciple of Jesus and so taking his message to heart are a lot more radical than the proverbial willingness to loan a cup of sugar.
Let the Reader understand
One of the best known stories of the gospel is presented to us today and that is perhaps why we need to pay more attention to it. It may be that we think that we know what the The Good Samaritan is all about. Jesus uses it to tell us to be caring and compassionate but, as often happens with the scriptures, the real meaning only comes through when we consider it in context.The lawyer asking the question is more interested in word games than the truth and we must remember that it is to him that the story is addressed. His narrow and sectarian worldview is exposed as the person he thinks most unlikely to be a neighbour, the ritually unclean Samaritan, is the only one who behaves in accordance with God’s will. The story is a call to examine our attitudes and our tendency to try and make God in our image and likeness, rather than let him restore his image and likeness in us
Today’s readings are about covenants. To really appreciate the new covenant we must understand that is was built upon the old one. From the outset God has wanted to bring a lost and sinful humanity back to himself through a relationship built on love. The covenant with Moses is the beginning of that process and the new covenant with Jesus is its culmination. Now the barriers between God and humankind have been torn down. The result is that the barriers between peoples must also come down and that is the essence of the story in today’s gospel, the Good Samaritan.
4. Donal Neary S.J.
Gospel reflections for Year C: Luke
The teller of the story
Is this the best story ever written! Because we know it so well, we may gloss over it. It challenges us on many levels – the inclusiveness of everyone as our neighbour; the way we can pass by human needs, and how the most rejected people can respond positively. It is a story of how many of us miss tragedy under our noses, and how many suffer because of the cruelty of others. It’s mainly a story to ask us to respond as positively as we can to all human need.
It also points to the person who told the story. Jesus could tell this story because he was the good Samaritan himself. His heart went out to those who were suffering most at the hands of others. He could tell it also because he knew what it was like to be an outcast – rejected by his own people, and in danger all the time of being victimised even to death like this man at the side of the road.
He brings it farther also – saying that the commandment of God is seen in the way the good Samaritan responded. The second great commandment is to love the neighbour, and the neighbour is the one of any colour, nationality, age or family.
We can ask who are the ones thrown to the side of the road today? The former prisoner, the asylum seeker and refugee, the forgotten young person, the addict, among others. All can be helped to their feet and to carry on in life through the help and care of another.
The final words to take from the gospel today are simple yet difficult – ‘go and do the same yourself.’
Lord, may I go and do the same myself.