Becoming a Neighbor Who Treats Everyone with Mercy and Love, 27th Monday (II), October 3, 2016

Fr. Roger J. Landry
Visitation Convent of the Sisters of Life, Manhattan
Monday of the 27th Week in Ordinary Time, Year II
Memorial of St. Mother Theodore Guerin
October 3, 2016
Gal 1:6-12, Ps 111, Lk 10:25-37


To listen to an audio recording of today’s homily, please click below: 


The following points were attempted in the homily: 

  •  Today in the Gospel, Jesus describes the path to heaven. A scholar of the law approaches to test Jesus about what he needs to do to inherit eternal life. Jesus flips the question around and asks the scribe what he thinks the answer is from his study of the law. He gives the same synthetic answer that Jesus gave elsewhere (Mt 22:34-40): to love God with all we have and to love our neighbor like we love ourselves. Jesus told him that he had answered correctly, but he added something else: “Do this and you will live.” It was clear that the scholar knew what needed to be done, but Jesus, seeing his heart, recognized that the struggle for this scribe would be to practice what he knew. Salvation isn’t dependent so much on our intelligence, on what we know, but who we are, and our character is forged by our action. We see how right Jesus was in the scribe’s follow-up question. Wishing to justify himself, he asked, “And who is my neighbor?” At first glance, the question might seem one of sincere curiosity, but behind it is the premise that there are some people who are his neighbors and some who are not. The typical Jews of the time thought that they were to love their neighbor and hate their enemy (Mt 5:43), that they were supposed to care for those Jews who followed the law, but cut themselves off from sinners, from Samaritans, from Gentiles and from basically everyone who didn’t toe the line. The scribe wanted to be justified in not loving certain of his neighbors. That’s why Jesus told him the Parable of the Good Samaritan to teach him who really loves his neighbor, before adding, “Go and do the same.”
  • Jesus changed the way that he looked at loving his neighbor from “objectively” seeking to define who was and was not his neighbor that he should treat with love, but in “subjectively” becoming a neighbor to everyone, to be willing to love and treat with mercy whoever one meets. St. John Paul II wrote in Love and Responsibility that a human being is someone to whom the only worthy response is love. That’s what it means to become a neighbor: a person who sees everyone as someone to whom one should show love and mercy, someone who recognizes everyone is in his neighborhood. This is what Jesus did to us, drawing close to us when we were dying, left in a ditch, mugged by the evil one, left for dead. He bound our wounds, carried us on his shoulders, poured his precious blood into us, brought us to the inn of the Church and promised to repay everyone who is kind to us at his second coming. And he as a Good Samaritan continues to come to us with all our wounds every morning. He wants us to follow him in loving like this.
  • Insofar as we, too, need not just to love God with all we are but to become Good Samaritans to all in order to inherit eternal life, it’s important for us to enter more deeply into this parable of Jesus. Jesus describes a mugged man left in a ditch dying. A priest and a levite journey by that route — two people who were religious, who should have been living by God’s command to love their neighbor — but, seeing the dying man, pass by the other side. Perhaps they were late for an appointment at the temple. Perhaps they didn’t want to become ritually impure by touching the man’s blood. But they failed to approach. Finally a Samaritan saw him, drew near, inconvenienced himself, bathed and nursed his wounds, brought him to an inn where he cared for him all night, then paid the inn-keepers to continue caring for him promising that he would return to see whether they did so and to pay them anything extra they had spent. If Jesus were giving this parable today, instead of “Samaritan” he would have substituted “pimp” or “drug dealer” or “child molester” or “mobster” or “ISIS member.” The Samaritan was the last person a Jew would have anticipated would have drawn near because of the centuries long mutual antipathy between Jews and Samaritans. Yet he did. The implication would be that if a sinful loser like a Samaritan drew near, we should all do so. When Jesus asked the scribe who proved himself to be a neighbor to the Samaritan, he responded, “The one who treated him with mercy,” and Jesus told him to go and do the same, to treat everyone with mercy whenever we encounter someone in need. That’s the path to heaven, precisely because it’s the path of Jesus. To be a Christian means to be a Good Samaritan. It means to draw near. It means to cross the road. It means to act with mercy.
  • Pope Francis has been stressing this point since he assumed the papacy almost 19 months ago. He has lamented a “globalized indifference” that hardens our hearts to those who are suffering so that, even if we feel some compassion toward them, we don’t do anything. We say, “Poor fella” and pass by the other side. The Kingdom of God that Jesus Christ came to establish is a Kingdom of Good Samaritans, in which we recognize we’re our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers, and readily — not just out of duty but out of genuine, sincere neighborly love — tend to the wounds those around us have. The more we ponder Jesus’ own wounds in his sacred humanity, the more straightforward this becomes. When we ponder with faith and real love Jesus’ suffering, when we see his scourge marks, when we look at the nail marks and his bleeding head and bloody eyes, we become Veronicas and Simons of Cyrene. Then we’re able to see Christ in the distressing disguise of those who likewise are beaten down by the world, who are hungry, thirsty, naked, a stranger, ill, imprisoned or otherwise in need (Mt 25:31-46). And we draw near to care for the One who drew near to care for us.
  • Today we can focus briefly on someone who lived this way: St. Mother Theodore Guerin, the foundress of the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana, who was baptized on this day back in 1798 in France. As a young girl she distinguished herself by her love for God and those God had made her neighbor. When she made her first communion at the age of 10, she confided to the priest that she was being called to religious life, but after her father was murdered by bandits when she was 15, she cared for her mother for the next ten years. Her mother didn’t want her to leave her side and little Anne-Therese was patient and kind with her. Eventually, seeing her daughter’s devotion, Isabelle Guerin permitted her daughter to follow her vocation and draw near to others with the same mercy with which she had been caring for her. She entered the Sisters of Providence of Ruille-sur-Loir and taught in schools and visited the poor and the sick. Eventually, when she was 42, her community responded to the request of the Bishop of Vincennes, Indiana, to send sisters to teach the children in the woods of Indiana. She was asked to be the superior, which was a request for her who had become a teaching sister to be a missionary. She prayed about it for a long time, before recognizing that she had committed herself to a Constitution that said, “”The Congregation being obliged to work with zeal for the sanctification of souls, the sisters will be disposed to go to whatsoever part of the world obedience calls them,” and that convinced her to answer the call to America. After a fourth month journey she arrived, founded the new Congregation (since they wouldn’t be able to communicate back with France) and began the work, bringing people the Gospel, an education, loving mercy in founding orphanages and even medicine in establishing various pharmacies. There are still 300 Sisters of her order in Indiana. They planted there and have grown, as they’ve carried out the works of mercy.
  • As St. Paul will teach us in his letter to the Galatians over the course of the next nine weekdays, God always supplies the grace we need to live up to everything to which he calls us. He calls us not to forsake the Gospel Christ has announced to us for “another Gospel,” not to water down the call, not to pretend as if we can just love those we choose to be our neighbors. Jesus, who summons us to be true neighbors to those in need, to cross the road, to be filled with compassion, doesn’t leave us on our own to do so, but wants to strengthen us and help us from within to “go and do the same.” He’s already strengthened us by his teaching but now he wants to fortify us by his very presence within so that we can become ever more the hands, feet and heart of the Mystical Body crossing the road with him to care for all those whom he loved so much to die for. The Lord remembers his Covenant forever, as prayed in today’s Psalm, and as we prepare to receive Him who is the New and Eternal Covenant we ask him to help us to love Him as we deserves — with our life, our soul, our all — and to love our neighbor just as he does, so that we may offer our body, our blood, our lives to lift them from the Road to Jericho and accompany them all the way to the celestial Jerusalem.

The readings for today’s Mass were: 

Reading 1
gal 1:6-12

Brothers and sisters:
I am amazed that you are so quickly forsaking
the one who called you by the grace of Christ
for a different gospel (not that there is another).
But there are some who are disturbing you
and wish to pervert the Gospel of Christ.
But even if we or an angel from heaven
should preach to you a gospel
other than the one that we preached to you,
let that one be accursed!
As we have said before, and now I say again,
if anyone preaches to you a gospel
other than the one that you received,
let that one be accursed!
Am I now currying favor with human beings or God?
Or am I seeking to please people?
If I were still trying to please people,
I would not be a slave of Christ.
Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters,
that the Gospel preached by me is not of human origin.
For I did not receive it from a human being, nor was I taught it,
but it came through a revelation of Jesus Christ.

Responsorial Psalm
ps 111:1b-2, 7-8, 9 and 10c

R. (5) The Lord will remember his covenant for ever.
R. Alleluia.
I will give thanks to the LORD with all my heart
in the company and assembly of the just.
Great are the works of the LORD,
exquisite in all their delights.
R. The Lord will remember his covenant for ever.
R. Alleluia.
The works of his hands are faithful and just;
sure are all his precepts,
Reliable forever and ever,
wrought in truth and equity.
R. The Lord will remember his covenant for ever.
R. Alleluia.
He has sent deliverance to his people;
he has ratified his covenant forever;
holy and awesome is his name.
His praise endures forever.
R. The Lord will remember his covenant for ever.
R. Alleluia.

lk 10:25-37

There was a scholar of the law who stood up to test Jesus and said,
“Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
Jesus said to him, “What is written in the law?
How do you read it?”
He said in reply,
“You shall love the Lord, your God,
with all your heart,
with all your being,
with all your strength,
and with all your mind,
and your neighbor as yourself.”
He replied to him, “You have answered correctly;
do this and you will live.”
But because he wished to justify himself, he said to Jesus,
“And who is my neighbor?”
Jesus replied,
“A man fell victim to robbers
as he went down from Jerusalem to Jericho.
They stripped and beat him and went off leaving him half-dead.
A priest happened to be going down that road,
but when he saw him, he passed by on the opposite side.
Likewise a Levite came to the place,
and when he saw him, he passed by on the opposite side.
But a Samaritan traveler who came upon him
was moved with compassion at the sight.
He approached the victim,
poured oil and wine over his wounds and bandaged them.
Then he lifted him up on his own animal,
took him to an inn, and cared for him.
The next day he took out two silver coins
and gave them to the innkeeper with the instruction,
‘Take care of him.
If you spend more than what I have given you,
I shall repay you on my way back.’
Which of these three, in your opinion,
was neighbor to the robbers’ victim?”
He answered, “The one who treated him with mercy.”
Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”