The good Samaritan
29 November 1987
In the name of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Ghost.
I want to attract you attention to two or three of the features of today's parable. We are told that a man was on his way from Jerusalem to Jericho. In the Old Testament Jerusalem was the place where God lived; it was the place of worship, the place of prayer. And he was now on the way down to the plain, down from the mountain of vision to where human life takes place.
And on the way, he was attacked, stripped of his clothes, wounded and lay on the wayside. And three men came one after the other, following the same road. The three had been where God lives, the three had been in the place of worship, adoration and prayer. And two of them passed him by. The text is so vivid when it says that the priest simply passed by; it does not even indicate that he cast a glance on him. He was a man of cloth (?), he had nothing to do with human needs – at least that is what he thought; he had learned nothing from praying to the God Who is love itself. And then another man came, a Levite, man versed in the knowledge of the Scriptures, but not in the knowledge of God. He came, he stood above this man wounded and dying – and continued on his way. His mind was on higher things than a human life, than human suffering – as he thought.
And than came a man, a man who in the eyes of the Jews was despicable simply by being what he was; not for his personal, moral or other defects, but because he was a Samaritan – an outcast, what Indians would call a pariah. And this man stopped over the wounded man because he knew what it was to be rejected, he knew what it was to be alone, to be passed by by others in contempt and at times in hatred. And he bent over this man, he did what he could to heal his wounds, he took him to a place of rest; and all this he did at his own costs not only that he paid the hostelry for the hospitality which they were bestowing on the wounded man; but he gave his time, he gave his mind, he gave his heart. He paid the cost in all ways in which we can pay the cost of being attentive to people around us.
We have spent a whole morning in God's own presence, in the place where He lives; we have heard His voice speaking to us about love; we have proclaimed that we believe in t h a t God Who is Love itself, the God Who gave His Only-Begotten Son that each of us, and not all of us collectively, but each of us personally might be saved. And we are going to leave this church; we will meet more than one person in the course of the coming week, or, until at a later date we come again to church. Are we going to be like the priest or the Levite? Pondering on what we have learned here, keeping in our hearts the wonder and the joy, but passing by everyone because to care for things lesser might disturb our peace, take our mind and heart away from this sense of the marvel of having seen God, of having been in His presence? If we do this, then we have understood little, if anything, of the Gospel, of Christ, of God. And if we ask like the young man, or the lawyer, ‘But who i s my neighbour? Who i s he for whose sake I must be prepared to let go of the deepest feelings of my heart, of the most lofty concern of my mind, of the best I feel within me? – the answer of Christ is direct and simple: a n y o n e ! Anyone who is in need of you on any possible level; on the simplest level of food or shelter, of gentleness and kindness, of thoughtfulness and friendliness.
And if one day and it may never come, but may come at any moment – more is asked, then we must be prepared to love our neighbour as Christ has taught us: with the readiness to lay down our lives for him. It is not a matter of giving one's life in the sense of being killed; it's a question of giving day in and day out our concern to all those who are in need of concern; those who sorrow need consolation; those who are lost need strength and support; those who are hungry need food; those who are destitute may need clothes; and those who are in spiritual disarray may need a word that streams from t h a t very faith which we receive here and which is our life.
Let us therefore go from this place remembering this parable not as one of the most beautiful things which Christ has said, but as a direct itinerary, a direct way in which He calls us to be and to treat one another and to look round with attentive eyes, remembering that at times the smallest kindness, one warm word, one attentive gesture may make all the difference to the life of a person who is alone to face his or her own life. мая God help us to be like the Good Samaritan on all levels and to all people. Amen.