14 July 2007 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Luke 10, 25-37 The Good Samaritan
The Parable of the Good Samaritan is found only in Luke. The parable is important because it expands the meaning of ‘neighbor’ and illustrates that compassion is for all people. The story begins with a victim of robbery attack who was left on the road to die. Three passers-by saw him: a priest, who avoided him in view of purity laws; a Levite, a priestly class, who avoided him; and a Samaritan, considered an enemy of the Jews, who helped him. Today, the popularity of the parable can be found in how people understand the present-day Samaritan. A Samaritan today means a generous individual who provides aid to a needy person without hesitation. Thus, a Samaritan is someone who gives a positive response to the call of the Gospel. Their response is non-discriminatory. Their generosity is beyond race or segmentation or classification that we use in our lives.
The image of the Samaritan can be used therefore in several contexts. The reverse order is also true: an atheist helping a Catholic, a Catholic eating comfortably with a born-again evangelical, a homophobic assisting a homosexual, members of Alpha Phi Omega (APO) assisting a Tau Gamma, an UPSILON helping a member of the Sigma Rho in law school, an Ateneo basketball player befriending a UP Maroons cager (which actually happens), but greater still, an Atenean having fun with a La Sallite (joke!).
The parable’s message is explosive for many of us whose greatest talent is to categorize, classify, and catalogue people. The parable teaches us that an individual of a social group they disapprove or consider a rival can exhibit a superior moral behavior to their opponent in need. It also means that not sharing the same faith, interest or affiliate is no excuse to behave poorly. It also means that we can rise above our prejudices and let our human heart see the heart of another in need.
The parable also has some spiritual implications. The people expected to help, like the priest and the Levites, did not lift a finger to help the dying man while the Samaritan, whom we didn’t expect to help, did offer his services and restored the person to life. During the ministry of Jesus, Jesus helped those who are considered outcasts and sinners. For the priest and the Levite, to touch a dead person means to go through the purity rituals in order to be clean again may be inconvenient. Holy people do not associate with those who are ‘sick’ or else they too become impure.
But like all parables of Jesus, the image of the Samaritan sticks because it asks rather bluntly: Would we help only when it is convenient? Should we go out of our way to show compassion, even if it means to suffer the brunt of gossip and persecution?
Let me give you a case: A prostitution den is not a place for priests. Any priest who would go there would scandalize many. So who then could be sent there?
Two saints were reformed prostitutes: Margaret of Cortona and Mary of Egypt. Two saints worked for the reformation of prostitutes: St. John Eudes and a Jesuit, St. John Francis Regis.