CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 15 September 2018

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To inherit life

Today’s gospel reading begins with two questions from Jesus: What shall I do to inherit eternal life? What is written in the law?

The rabbi promptly appeals to two biblical texts. The first is well known, because every pious Israelite recited it at morning and evening prayer: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength” (Deuteronomy 6:5).

The second, on which he insisted a little less, is taken from the book of Leviticus: “and your neighbour as yourself...” (19:18). Perfect answer!

Is that all then? But Jesus adds, “Do this and you shall live.” Do! It is not enough to know

The rabbi insists, “And who is my neighbour?” Jesus then tells the story.

There was a man, who went from Jerusalem to Jericho (Luke 10:30). The man was attacked by robbers who beat him, robbed him and left him half dead along the way. Who is he? He is qualified in the most generic way: he is a man! And this is enough. 

By chance a priest and a Levite descended on the same route (vv. 31-32). 

That by chance is nice! We need not go to look for the needy brother. The circumstances and coincidences make us encounter him. 

Why does Jesus introduce these two men of the Church in his story? 

He could have avoided the controversy and shown immediately a positive example from among the Jews. Why provoke the notables, the members of the hierarchy?

The reason is the same as why the prophets had strongly attacked the worship, rituals, solemn ceremonies of the temple: God does not tolerate exterior formalism used as a convenient loophole to avoid being caught up in people’s problems.

The priest and the Levite arrived, they saw the man, but passed on by the other side. The two Church people came from the temple, yet they are insensitive, do not feel compassion—the first of God’s feelings (Exodus 34:6).

This means that the religion they practice is hypocritical and their hearts hardened rather than softened. What will God do with this religion that provides an alibi for escape the problems of people? 

The man attacked by bandits is for Jesus the symbol of all the victims of violence.

At this point enters a Samaritan, a synonym for impurity, irreverence and despised by the Jews. He was travelling and he had his plans. He came upon the man and starts taking care of the wounded man.

In the face of a person who is in need, he forgot his business commitments or religious norms. He acted immediately, committing himself to the complete solution of the case.

He is not pushed to act by religious reasons, or the calculation of merits to gain heaven, but only by compassion! 

The last words of Jesus to the lawyer summarise the message of the whole parable: Then go and do the same! (v.37). Make yourself a neighbour to the one in need and inherit life.

The parable has an explosive message: whoever loves his neighbour certainly also loves God.

 

Father Fernando Armellini SCJ    
Claretian Publications
 https://sundaycommentaries.wordpress.com