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07/10/16 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Fr. Reggie

The parable of the Good Samaritan is so familiar to us that we often see only one of its dimensions.

The dimension we tend to focus on is its presentation of a model for us to imitate. Jesus finishes   the parable by saying "Go and do likewise."  In that sense, it is a crystal clear explanation of the great commandment, "love your neighbor as yourself."  If we strive to follow it, we will without a doubt live a worthy, meaningful, and fruitful life. Today the Church reminds us that we should be striving to follow it.

But this parable also has another dimension.

The Good Samaritan is, above all, a self-portrait of Jesus and what Jesus has done for us - for the human family as a whole, and for each of us individually.

We were like the man left on the side of road to die. Each of us has been robbed of our original holiness by original sin.  Our selfishness and sins, and the sins of others, have deeply wounded our souls.  We lay on the side of life's path in need of a Savior.  We have been bruised and broken and wounded by life in a fallen world. In his incarnation, Jesus comes to us like the Good Samaritan. He is the merciful Lord  who heals and restores us with the oil and wine of his sacraments, who pays for our salvation with his own sacrifice on the cross at Calvary, who entrusts the boundless riches of his grace to his own innkeeper, the Church,  who in turn watches over our convalescence, our growth into Christian maturity, until Jesus will come again.

If Jesus commands us to be Good Samaritans to one another, it's only because he has walked the path ahead of us.

It is worth taking some time to think about this parable.

In this self-portrait, Jesus shows us what kind of friend he wants to be for us.

What exactly does the Good Samaritan do? He puts himself out; he goes out of his way, to save a half-dead traveler, someone he doesn't know, and someone who belongs to a social group that despises his own social group. (Jews and Samaritans had been long-standing enemies by the time of Christ.) First of all, this meant taking a risk. Playing dead was a popular ploy of Palestine's experienced roadside thieves and brigands. They would pretend to be injured, and when a kind traveler stooped down to help, the gang of thieves would pop out of hiding and attack.

Second, this attention was costly. The Good Samaritan had to use up his own oil and wine to treat the wounds. He had to leave money with the innkeeper to cover expenses.

Third, it was inconvenient. The Samaritan was on the road for business, maybe very important business. Stopping at the scene of the accident and taking the injured man to safety, would delay his trip.

In short, the whole thing was really a bad investment, practically speaking.

But friends do that. They put themselves out for their friends. They take risks for them and make sacrifices for them. That's what Christ did for us, to prove what kind of friend he wants to be - just look at the crucifix.

And if we value his friendship, and want to be his friend, we will, gladly (even if clumsily), "go and do the same."

We need Christ. We live in a fallen world. We ourselves are fallen. Christ is our Good Samaritan. Only Christ's help can get us back on our feet, keep us there, and infuse in us the inner, spiritual strength we all know we should have.

In a culture drunk with self-indulgence, self-reliance, and extreme individualism, we need to be reminded of this truth.

The Church has reminded us of it today.

During this Mass, let's thank our Lord for coming to save us, for not walking by, like the priest and the Levite, but stopping beside us, going out of his way for us.

And when he does it again this morning, by coming to strengthen us in Holy Communion, let's promise him that we will not just thank him with our words, but also with our actions. Every Christian is called to be another Christ. Christ wants to reach out to the people in our circles of friends and family, just as the Good Samaritan reached out to the unfortunate man who had been robbed and beaten. And he wants to reach out through us. Each of us knows people who have been robbed and beaten up by the troubles of life in this fallen world.

This week, encouraged by the example Christ gives us in this parable, and nourished with his very own supernatural strength through the Eucharist that we will receive, let's allow Christ to reach out to that person through us. By inviting us to be his Good Samaritan coworkers, Jesus gives us an opportunity to show him how grateful we really are. This week, let's make sure the opportunity doesn't slip by unnoticed. Let's obey Christ's command to "Go and do likewise." If we do, the Lord promises, we become truly alive.


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