Embracing Our Vocation to Do What the Good Samaritan Does, 27th Monday (I), October 9, 2017

Fr. Roger J. Landry
Visitation Convent of the Sisters of Life, Manhattan
Monday of the 27th Week in Ordinary Time, Year I
Memorial of Blessed John Henry Newman
October 9 2017
Jon 1:1-2:1-2.11, Jon 2:3-5.8, Lk 10:25-37


Today’s homily was not recorded because of a malfunction in the recorder. The following points were attempted in the homily: 

  • Today in the readings we see two great dynamisms, two fundamental polarities in life. The first we see in Jonah in the first reading. When God reveals his will to him, he seeks to flee from the presence of the Lord. He boards a boat heading to Tarshish, which was basically in western Spain, as far west as Jonah would have known of the geography of the time. But such fleeing from the Lord is never a private action. It always impacts those around us, as Jonah’s sinful polarity was risking the life of the fellow mariners.
  • We see that same polarity in the first two figures in the Parable of the Good Samaritan in the Gospel. The priest and the levite were fleeing from the love of God and love of neighbor, were fleeing from the type of charity to which God was calling them at the moment. Only the Samaritan, someone whom Jews thought were perpetually in flight from God by worshipping God on Mount Gerizim rather than in Jerusalem, heard God’s call and responded. If Jesus gave the parable today, it would be as if a man had been mugged, abused, and dropped in a sewer waiting to die and the Pope and Missionaries of Charity, hearing the groaning, crossed the road so that they wouldn’t get involved, but then a drug dealer and pimp, or a member of Al Qaeda, or a child molester, or someone else many of the people in the world think a despicable lower drew near to care for him,  nurse him back to health and sacrifice money for future care.
  • What leads to the transition from the polarity of fleeing from the Lord to that of drawing near? Tomorrow we’ll see Jonah fulfilling God’s plans. It was what was excised from today’s first reading so that we could pray it for our responsory to the first reading. It was Jonah’s prayer. Prayer, real contact with God, transforms us from those who flee the Lord to those who serve and love and the Lord, especially in others. God himself transforms us to set us on his path.
  • Today in the Gospel, Jesus describes that path for us. 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. He surrounds us with neighbors who are hurting precisely to “unleash love” in us, as St. John Paul II wrote in Salvifici Doloris. He permits people to be in need so that we can learn what it means to become a neighbor and actually act as 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. Many times we’re tempted to run away from this vocation just like Jonah did his. We have lots of good excuses, lots of things we need to do that we prioritize over charity. We have lots of “ships to Tarshish.” But Jesus wants us to grasp that the most important thing we need to do, the greatest way we can serve him, is by loving God with all we’ve got and loving our neighbor, the concrete neighbor in need whom we encounter each day. Loving that neighbor in deeds is what he wants.
  • Today the Church celebrates the feast of Blessed John Henry (Cardinal) Newman, one of the greatest figures of the 19th century and one of the most celebrated converts in the history of the Church. In his poetry and in his Sermons, he consistently focused on the Church as the Inn to whom Christ entrusts all of the wounded before he returns at his second coming. He looked to the Church in this way even prior to becoming Catholic. He wrote in a poem in 1833 from Palermo about the Church’s charity, which he had seen when he visited Rome and which for him had compelling attraction, “Oh that thy creed were sound! / For thou dost soothe the heart, thou Church of Rome / By thy unwearied watch and varied round / Of service, in thy Saviour’s holy home. / I cannot walk the city’s sultry streets, / But the wide porch invites to still retreats, / Where passion’s thirst is calm’d, and care’s un-thankful gloom. / The home-sick solitary finds a friend: / Thoughts, prison’d long for lack of speech, outpour their tears; and doubts in resignation end. / I almost fainted from the long delay / That tangles me within this languid bay, / When comes a foe, my wounds with oil and / wine to tend.” He still didn’t think that the Church’s “creed” was sound, but he was very moved by the “service” that he saw for the “home-sick solitary,” for those full of tears, and sees himself in the “foe” whom the Church would tend with wine and oil. In notes for a Sermon on the Good Samaritan for the 12th Sunday after Pentecost that he would give later, he would focus on this point, stressing that the Church “is the good Samaritan to Protestants. Observe again the text, ‘He who showed mercy to him.’ Has the Catholic Church or Protestantism done this for us?” The answer was clearly the Catholic Church. The Church is supposed to be a whole mystical body of Good Samaritans, the Inn in which all of the wounded can find a friend. 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. And he specifically called us to show that mercy to Protestants, who, without knowing it, are “wounded” in their missing the fullness of the means of salvation. He was calling us to work to cross the road to help them cross the Tiber.
  • Pope Francis has been stressing this point since he assumed the papacy. 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.
  • The greatest means by which the Good Samaritan cares for us and changes us to care loving for our neighbor is here at Mass, as he nourishes us in the inn of the Church with his body, blood, soul and divinity that we offer to the Eternal Father for our sins and those of the whole world. In Jesus we became neighbor to everyone and he strengthens us to become the hands, feet, and heart of the mystical body to go out in search of those wandering from Jerusalem to Jericho whom Jesus wants us to lift out of the ditch and help get back on the road that leads to the Celestial Jerusalem. This is the means both by which we love God and love our neighbor with all we are and have. This is the path to eternal life.

The readings for today’s Mass were: 

Reading 1 Jon 1:1–2:1-2, 11

This is the word of the LORD that came to Jonah, son of Amittai:

“Set out for the great city of Nineveh, and preach against it;
their wickedness has come up before me.”
But Jonah made ready to flee to Tarshish away from the LORD.
He went down to Joppa, found a ship going to Tarshish,
paid the fare, and went aboard to journey with them to Tarshish,
away from the LORD.

The LORD, however, hurled a violent wind upon the sea,
and in the furious tempest that arose
the ship was on the point of breaking up.
Then the mariners became frightened and each one cried to his god.
To lighten the ship for themselves, they threw its cargo into the sea.
Meanwhile, Jonah had gone down into the hold of the ship,
and lay there fast asleep.
The captain came to him and said, “What are you doing asleep?
Rise up, call upon your God!
Perhaps God will be mindful of us so that we may not perish.”

Then they said to one another, “Come, let us cast lots
to find out on whose account we have met with this misfortune.”
So they cast lots, and thus singled out Jonah.
“Tell us,” they said, “what is your business?
Where do you come from?
What is your country, and to what people do you belong?”
Jonah answered them, “I am a Hebrew,
I worship the LORD, the God of heaven,
who made the sea and the dry land.”

Now the men were seized with great fear and said to him,
“How could you do such a thing!–
They knew that he was fleeing from the LORD,
because he had told them.–
They asked, “What shall we do with you,
that the sea may quiet down for us?”
For the sea was growing more and more turbulent.
Jonah said to them, “Pick me up and throw me into the sea,
that it may quiet down for you;
since I know it is because of me
that this violent storm has come upon you.”

Still the men rowed hard to regain the land, but they could not,
for the sea grew ever more turbulent.
Then they cried to the LORD: “We beseech you, O LORD,
let us not perish for taking this man’s life;
do not charge us with shedding innocent blood,
for you, LORD, have done as you saw fit.”
Then they took Jonah and threw him into the sea,
and the sea’s raging abated.
Struck with great fear of the LORD,
the men offered sacrifice and made vows to him.

But the LORD sent a large fish, that swallowed Jonah;
and Jonah remained in the belly of the fish
three days and three nights.
From the belly of the fish Jonah prayed
to the LORD, his God.
Then the LORD commanded the fish to spew Jonah upon the shore.

Responsorial Psalm Jonah 2:3, 4, 5, 8

R. You will rescue my life from the pit, O Lord.
Out of my distress I called to the LORD,
and he answered me;
From the midst of the nether world I cried for help,
and you heard my voice.
R. You will rescue my life from the pit, O Lord.
For you cast me into the deep, into the heart of the sea,
and the flood enveloped me;
All your breakers and your billows
passed over me.
R. You will rescue my life from the pit, O Lord.
Then I said, “I am banished from your sight!
yet would I again look upon your holy temple.”
R. You will rescue my life from the pit, O Lord.
When my soul fainted within me,
I remembered the LORD;
My prayer reached you
in your holy temple.
R. You will rescue my life from the pit, O Lord.

Alleluia Jn 13:34

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
I give you a new commandment:
love one another as I have loved you.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel 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.”