Gospel Luke 10:25-37
“…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” (Dt 6:5). “For this command that I enjoin on you today is not too mysterious and remote for you. It is not up in the sky… nor is it across the sea… It is something very near to you, already in your mouths and in your hearts; you have only to carry it out” (Dt 30:11-14).
From accounts on discipleship to going on a mission of peace, Jesus teaches us about the appropriate attributes and attitudes of being a disciple of Christ through the parable of the Good Samaritan. In the beginning of the gospel of Luke, Jesus reminds us of the greatest commandment that is to love God with all your heart, being, strength and mind. But he did not stop there; following right after it is, to love your neighbor as yourself. Love for God and neighbor is the key quality of a disciple of Christ. But how does this exactly work?
In the parable, the scholar of the law who tested Jesus about the Scripture did not settle with reciting the correct verses of the law; instead, he further sought limits by asking Jesus with, “who is my neighbor.” Of course, as Jesus’ style of teaching had always been, the lawyer was not given a straightforward definition of his question. Jesus, told him the parable of the Good Samaritan. The story of the Good Samaritan is not only about helping someone who is in need. It is also about knowing our true identity as children of God, as one human race. In the parable, Jesus specifies tribes (e.g. Levite, Samaritan, Jew) and uses their social relationship to emphasize a point. It is known that the hatred between the Jews and Samaritans was aggressive and fierce. But, Jesus bridges the long-standing gap through the charitable gesture of the Samaritan towards a beaten up Jew. Some say that, though told it in a parable, Jesus was speaking of himself as the Good Samaritan in the story. The compassionate Samaritan demonstrated works of mercy by ensuring that the bodily needs of the poor Jew was taken care of not only at the moment, but also even thereafter. That despite the Jew being labeled as ‘archrival,’ the Samaritan goes out of his way to save a suffering fellow man. Doesn’t this scenario sound familiar?
In the letter of St. Paul to the Romans he says that, “Christ died out of love for us, while we were still ‘enemies.’ Likewise, Jesus invites us to emulate the same gesture of love towards others if we want to be his disciples. The Lord asks us to love one another as he does, even our enemies, to make ourselves the neighbor of those farthest away, and love the children and the poor as Christ himself (CCC 1825). As Jesus’ disciples, it is important to be reminded that, love of neighbor is inseparable from love of God (CCC 1878). We are called to coexist with others, to live in a community where interaction with others is inevitable. By this interaction, our ability to respond to various situations is developed. Relationships are built between oneself and others. Love of God does not only take place in going to praise and worship gatherings on a regular basis. Love of God extends to living out his Word – that is to love our neighbor. We show our love towards our neighbor not only through heroic deeds that we do for them. Love of neighbor can be shown through simple gestures of compassion, sympathy, listening to someone’s story with sincerity, praying for and with them, acknowledging their works by words of affirmation, or by simply uttering the words ‘thank you’ when a small deed is done for us. By seeking God’s grace, we can express love of neighbor in going out of our usual way to heed a need.
And by ‘neighbor’ Jesus did not mean only those who are close to us in relation. By neighbor, Jesus meant everyone regardless of nationality or tribe, belief or faith, color or stature. Jesus is telling us that in spite of our social and political affiliations, we are ought to help one another, look after one another and be accountable to one another because we need each other. After all, this is the kind of love that Jesus teaches us to share – one that is universal and undiscriminating. We can only truly show our love of God if we equally carry out the same love to our neighbor. As stated in the Scripture from Deuteronomy above, this commandment is not too difficult for us, or is it beyond our reach, we just need to carry it out the best way we can, by the help of God’s grace.
Dear Jesus, thank you for showing us how to love God with all our heart, mind, strength and being. You showed us how to be faithful to God’s love by loving our neighbor the best way we can. Please always remind us of how we should treat our neighbor. We seek the Holy Spirit to grant us the wisdom to understand and interpret your teachings in parables the way that you intended them to be understood and interpreted. We want to live out your Word, Lord, all the days of our lives. Amen.