• Deuteronomy 30:10-14 • Colossians 1:15-20 • Luke 10:25-37 • 15 Ordinary C ‘13 •
Scripture Readings: Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Print PDF: Weekly Homily 07.14.2013
T. S. Elliot was a publisher, playwright, and literary critic, born in the United States. Later upon entering the Anglican Church he became a British citizen and in 1948 was awarded The Nobel Prize in Literature as “one of the twentieth century’s major poets.” Today I propose one of his simple sentences as a guide to help us engage Luke’s gospel —“we had the experience but missed the meaning.”
“We had the experience but missed the meaning.”
Luke’s story of “the Good Samaritan” contains one of the best-known stores in world literature. We have heard it often. It is about being “neighbors.” It is challenging because it is so well known, so what is left for me or anyone else to say?
Neighborhoods are places where people know one another well. In the Anaconda neighborhood of my youth there were about ten boys my age. Any parent could tell any of us what to do or not to do and we listened. That was because we were neighbors, and neighbors are like family.
“A scholar of the law came to Jesus and asked, ‘Master, what must I do to gain eternal life?’” After a brief interchange between them the scholar seeks to justify himself and asks ”who is my neighbor?” As a Jew, he interpreted the word “neighbor” to mean his fellow Jews. Luke’s Jesus expands that definition by placing a “Samaritan” at the center of his story. Jesus certainly was aware of the ancient antipathy and resentment between “Jews” and “Samaritans.” In this story he sets before his peers, and us, a much more universal application of the term “neighbor.’
The silence, worn pews and aromas in well-used “churches” speak to me of God. I am “Hipshot Percussion!” The Clark Fork and Blackfoot rivers, the Ross Creek cedar forest, the Mission mountains, wildflowers and butterflies also speak to me of God. This is good but if you listen to this story you realize that is a beginning place. The written gospels repeatedly invite us to find that Gracious Mystery we name God in one another. In this text Luke’s Jesus is telling us we encounter the One who is a lover of life primarily in one another!
Consider the main characters in this gospel text.
We do not know anything about the victim. This anonymous person is lying half-dead by the roadside, abandoned to her/his fate. This victim could be any of us, any human being crippled by violence, misfortune, sickness or despair.
Then there are the priest, the Levite and the Samaritan. The priest who passed claimed to serve God. He probably was on his way to or from the Temple in Jerusalem. The Levite also claimed to serve God. He may have been thinking about God as he passed by. Perhaps both feared contact with the victim would render them “unclean,” unable to enter Temple or synagogue. Samaritans didn’t belong to the chosen people of Israel and were considered “heretics.” This Samaritan, like Jesus, is unconcerned with ritual defilement and is sensitive to the real world in which people struggle, work and suffer. He does all he can for the victim.
The scholar of the law asked Jesus “who is my neighbor?” Jesus told a story. Then he directed the legal scholar to “go and do likewise.” Go and be the neighbor to every person. Doing so is to respond to the presence of that Gracious Mystery we name God.
It is good to recognize God present in nature and in those you love, respect and admire. Persist in doing so but remember that Gracious Mystery we name God is present in the poor person buying a six-pack of Bud with food stamps; in the street person with the shabby clothes and hair; in those who frustrate me, or whose behavior, language, or lack of basic manners irritates me. The population of our planet is expanding. God is present in the illegal immigrant who ignores borders seeking a more humane life. We who claim the identity of “Christian” are told to “go and do likewise.” “We had the [Christ] experience.” Now, let’s be sure we don’t “miss the meaning.”