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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.”


The incident begins innocently enough. Knowing that the Old Testament alludes to the “eternal inheritance” one can possess (cf Ps 36:18 LXX; Dn 12:2), a lawyer, an expert in Jewish tradition, asks Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life and to share in the resurrection of the righteous. Jesus responds with a question of his own. He turns to the Law, asking the lawyer what he sees it saying. The scribe replies with a part of the Shema from Dt 6:5, that portion of the Law that a Jew recites daily and that calls on the nation to love God fully. He also cites the portion of Lv 19:18 that calls for the love of one’s neighbor. The combination is known as the “great commandment.” Jesus commends the answer by noting that if the lawyer meets these demands, he will live. Here, he is asserting the fundamental ethical call of God: to love God and respond to others in the light of that love. So Jesus rightly says, “Do this and you will live.” To illustrate concretely the great commandment, Jesus gives the parable of the Good Samaritan.

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