Fr. Roger J. Landry
St. Bernadette Parish, Fall River, MA
Monday of the 27th Week in Ordinary Time, Year II
Memorial of St. Bruno
October 6, 2014
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.”
- Insofar as we, too, need not just to love God with all we are but to become Good Samaritans to inherit eternal life, it’s important for us to enter into this parable of Jesus. He 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. When we were the person left in a ditch because of our self-inflicted sinful wounds and the wounds of others’ sins, Jesus crossed the road all the way from heaven, washed and bathed us in his own blood, brought us to the inn he founded — the Church — to whom he entrusted our care and promised to reward our caregivers on his second coming. He wants us, once healed, to become those inn-keepers. 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 think about three different ways by which we’re called to be Good Samaritans and love our neighbor in deeds.
- The first is by our prayer. The universal Church celebrates today the memorial of St. Bruno, the founder of the Carthusians, a religious congregation totally dedicated to praying and fasting for the good of the world. While in a physical sense they withdraw from day to day action, in their intentionality, they are drawing near to all those in need through their praying by words and by their bodies. Likewise, we are called first to become Good Samaritans in the way we pray and fast for those in need. Even though we can’t physically draw near to those in Sierra Leone and Liberia suffering from Ebola, we can pray and fast for them. Even though we might not be able physically to help those sleeping on the streets in big cities, we can lift them and their needs up to the Lord. Even though the vast amount of human needs exceeds our finite capacities to remedy, in our sincere and constant prayer we are able to bring them before God’s infinite providence.
- The second is by recognizing the greatest poverty and responding to it. Pope Francis has said that the worst impoverishment of all is the “lack of spiritual care” (Evangelii Gaudium 200) He’s lamented how many, even in traditionally Christian countries, who don’t know even how to make the sign of the Cross. There are many who don’t know God, who are unaware that he cares, that he loves them, that he wants to accompany them. We’re called to draw near and remedy their interior wounds and holes with the Gospel and very presence of Christ. Today the Church in the United States remembers Blessed Marie Rose Durocher, the foundress of the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary who in Canada and in the United States sought to remedy the spiritual poverty of so many young children and help them learn to love God with all they are and have, to become Good Samaritans to their neighbor, and to help them to become the salt, light and leaven that the Church and world always need. Her feast day is a reminder to us that we, too, are called to draw near with the Gospel those who are spiritually mal- or undernourished.
- The last is the willingness to love of neighbor with fraternal correction. St. Paul in today’s first reading sternly corrects the Galatians for having succumbed to false prophets preaching a “gospel” other than the one he had announced to them. As we’ll see between now and a week from Wednesday, the Galatians had been influenced by the Judaizing Christians, those who thought that in order to be a good Christian one first had to become a good Jew and live by all the precepts of the Mosaic Law. Paul said that that was tantamount to thinking one is saved by the law rather than by Christ, by grace, and by faith in God. He cared enough about the Galatians that even while he was in prison, he drew near by his letter to help them out of the ditch of slavery to the law toward true freedom in Christ, the freedom that is necessary to love God and neighbor. We, too, need to be willing to be Good Samaritans in this way, and to call others to conversion. The Lord remembers his covenant forever, as we prayed in the Psalm, and it’s important that we help others to remember that Covenant too and live by it.
- 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. 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. 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 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:
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.
ps 111:1b-2, 7-8, 9 and 10c
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.
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.
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.
“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?”
“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.”