Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Within the Four Seas All People are Brothers and Sisters
A Million Hearts are United as One
First Reading (Deut 30: 10-14): The commandments are in our hearts
Second Reading (Col 1: 15-20): Through Christ we attain fullness
Gospel (Lk 10: 25-37): The Good Samaritan
“Xun Jubo sacrificed his life for his friend. The army officer of the Huns said, ‘We people who are unrighteous are entering a country of righteous people.’ “ (1)
“A man asked Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbour?’ Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him,beat him, and went away, leaving him half-dead... a priest... a Levite... a Samaritan... Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?’ He said ‘The one who showed him mercy.' Jesus said to him, ‘Go and do likewise.’ “ (Lk 10: 29-37)
This is a very well-known Biblical story. A certain Scribe asked Jesus, “Rabbi, what shall I do to gain eternal life?” He was obviously just testing Jesus. That Scribe should have known the absolutely correct answer already from his own traditions, that those who strictly followed the Mosaic law would rise and obtain eternal life.
So Jesus asked him, “What does the Law say? I am not asking you to tell me what everyone says but rather for you to reflect a moment, what are the implications of the Divine Law?’ The Scribe did not dare delay but based on his knowledge of the Law, answered promptly, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbour as yourself. “ (Lk 10:27). . That is, it is a complete and all-embracing love which includes God and also all other people.
Actually, we are the same as the Scribe, we believe in the meaning and value of loving God and others also. But if we go more deeply into 'loving others' we might ask the 'six 'W's' – Who? What? Where? When? How? Why? We might think these questions are not simple. At least, we want to be clear. Who is going to love? Whom will we love? How will we love? Am I willing to love? Am I willing to sacrifice for those I love?
That is why the Scribe asked the second question, ”Who is my neighbour?” That is how Jesus came to tell the famous parable, ‘The Good Samaritan”.
This, then, is the parable: There was an injured person lying on the roadside. He really needed someone to help him. Two people from his own tribe passed by, one of them even was a priest. They passed by but did not stop to save him. Later there came a person from another country, tribe and religion, a Samaritan, who was considered an ‘outsider’ by the Jewish people, a stranger who had no ties to them. Without being asked he put out his hand to help the wounded man. It was that outsider, that stranger, whose love was more encompassing. He not only was moved to pity, he also helped him in every possible way.
First, the Samaritan saved the injured man from a very difficult situation. He poured oil and wine on the injured man's wounds and afterwards bandaged them. Then he took the injured person to a safe inn and took care of him. Lastly he told the innkeeper to take care of the injured man solicitiously and he would pay all the expenses incurred.
This reminds me of a Chinese story, “Sacrificing One's Life for a Friend” in “New Meanings in Old Sayings.” Xun Jubo was visiting a friend in a distant city. He arrived there just as the barbarian Huns were attacking the city. (The Huns were probably the equivalent of the 'foreigners' in Scripture). His friend advised him to escape as quickly as possible. But Jubo said, 'To forsake my friend to save my life is against my conscience. Is this something I, Xun Jubo would do?' So he stayed behind to look after his friend. When the Huns entered the city and saw Xun Jubo they said to him, ‘All the people of the city have fled, only you two remain behind. You really are daring!’ Jubo replied, ‘My friend is seriously ill and I cannot leave him. I would rather sacrifice my own life in exchange for his.’ The Hun leader sighed and said the following famous words, “We people who are unrighteous are entering a country of righteous people.” (1) They withdrew their army and the entire city was saved.
The Huns were considered barbarians by those people who considered themselves 'highly cultured.' They looked on them as uncivilized and since they were illiterate they had no culture. Yet these 'barbarians' were able to acknowledge their deficiencies and know how to appreciate the virtues of those more advanced than they. This was somewhat like what Jesus said about the 'stranger' who did not believe in God. He had a kind of faith greater than that of God's 'Chosen People.'
It is good to be proud of one's ethnicity but self-righteousness and self-centredness to the point of being derogatory towards others is not what God wants. Therefore, Jesus often reminded his own people: God loves everyone, including the foreigners whom the Jews disliked. They had probably also received God's blessings and may even have had greater faith and love than God's 'Chosen People.'
This parable not only teaches us how to love our neighbor, but should also help us to be more aware of “who is our neighbor.” Love can break down all barriers among people, so that we are able to look on everyone as a neighbor, and all people can become neighbours to each other.
Therefore 'neighbor' does not only mean the people near us, nor is it limited to family or friends. Whomever we are in contact with are 'neighbours' to us though they may be thousands of miles away. Truly, we need only open our arms and take them to our hearts, and people all over the world will become our neighbors.