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The parable of the Good Samaritan

Gospel Reading: Lk 10:25-37
There was a scholar of the law who stood up to test Jesus and said, “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 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?” Jesus replied, “A man fell victim to robbers as he went down from Jerusalem to Jericho. They stripped and beat him and went off leaving him half-dead. A priest happened to be going down that road, but when he saw him, he passed by on the opposite side.

Likewise a Levite came to the place, and when he saw him, he passed by on the opposite side. But a Samaritan traveler who came upon him was moved with compassion at the sight. He approached the victim, poured oil and wine over his wounds and bandaged them. Then he lifted him up on his own animal, took him to an inn and cared for him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper with the instruction, ‘Take care of him. If you spend more than what I have given you, I shall repay you on my way back.’ Which of these three, in your opinion, was neighbor to the robbers’ victim?” He answered, “The one who treated him with mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”

Fed by misunderstanding, mistrust, opprobrium, and violence, “bad blood” has persisted between the Samaritans and the Jews. In 722 BC, when Sargon of Assyria destroyed the northern kingdom of Israel and its capital, Samaria, he settled outsiders in the land. These outsiders were allowed to marry with the Israelite remnants. The people worshipped the God of Israel, but elements of foreign worship were also brought in.

In the Gospels, we see how this enmity touches Jesus and his disciples. And yet, the Samaritans figure positively and prominently in the Gospels. Two “icons” especially stand out: the Samaritan woman whom Jesus encounters by Jacob’s well in Jn 4 and the “Good Samaritan” in today’s Gospel parable. They not only complement each other as woman and man; they also speak of the two aspects of authentic Christian spirituality.

In November 2004, some 850 consecrated men and women gathered in Rome for the First International Congress on Consecrated Life on the theme “Passion for Christ, Passion for Humanity.” Two images were offered: the Samaritan woman at the well and the Good Samaritan.

The Samaritan woman is the icon of the “seekers of the well,” of water quenching the thirst that makes us look for the fullness and the joy of communion. The woman realizes that the water from the well and the companionship of a man are not enough, and she is intrigued when Jesus offers her “living water,” drinking of which one will never be thirsty again. Jesus here speaks of the divine gift that he as Messiah gives. The woman leaves behind her water jar; she has recognized the One who fills her entire being.

The Samaritan man in the parable reminds us that the great commandment of love is not a matter of the mind. What matters is not so much knowing who one’s neighbor is as having in one’s heart the disposition to be moved by compassion for whoever is in need.

The Samaritan woman and the Samaritan man are the icons of the two inseparable aspects of love. The Samaritan woman speaks of loving God with our whole heart, desiring him who alone fills our heart. The Samaritan man declares that to love one’s neighbor is to feel compassion, to care, and to help.

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SOURCE: “366 Days with the Lord,” ST PAULS, 7708 St. Paul Rd., SAV, Makati City (Phils.); Tel.: 895-9701; Fax 895-7328; E-mail: publishing@stpauls.ph; Website: http://www.stpauls.ph.