Weekly Homily from Father Jim Hogan for July 14, 2013

• 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.”



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3 Responses to Weekly Homily from Father Jim Hogan for July 14, 2013

  1. bud malby says:

    Did anyone watch the Bill Moyers Frontline documentary on 7-9-13? It was one of the first things that popped into my mind when I read Jim Hogan’s homily. Moyers’ story, 20 years in the making, is about disadvantaged people too, perhaps not beaten and maimed like the person in the Samaritan parable, but whipped and scourged none the less. Thanks Jim, especially for your punch line at the end of your homily. If you’re interested you can access, and watch the Frontline story, Two American Families, here: http://video.pbs.org/video/2365042061

  2. Magy Stelling says:

    Thanks Fr. Jim for this informative homily. Just the past few months I had great difficulty finding Jesus in my neighbor–literally a former next door neighbor. I won’t go into the gross details of his behavior but will say they caused me, along with most residence of my complex, great fear and anxiety for a couple of months as his mental health took a nose dive. When discussing my inability to find Jesus in this person my parish priest asked me to consider that I might error in trying to find the face of a Loving Jesus in my neighbor.
    Might it not be that I should try to see the face of a suffering Jesus in this distraught person and have the one suffering seeing the face of a loving Jesus with in me. That small thought led to a great many hours of contemplation and discernment of the real danger, the potential of danger and the need to protect myself (we were officially warned not to be caught alone in the halls or elevator with him).
    This idea of a suffering and/or loving face of Jesus and in whom one should find it taught me so much of what compassion is truly all about and lessened my own fears and anxieties until his family, in another state, were able to find the proper care for him.
    Your homily also teaches us to search out the various ways we can live a more compassionate life because each of us has, at one time or another, experienced the merciful love of Jesus through others. It would be to my shame if I refused to share my interpretation of this grace with my neighbor.

  3. Erin Pascal says:

    Very good lesson here. It was a very good read. Thank you so much for sharing this. I will definitely keep those words in mind. Thank you for this.

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