In the first reading Dt 30:16 Moses spoke to the people “You shall obey the voice of the Lord your God, keep his commandments and statutes which are written in the book of law. Turn to the Lord God with all your heart and soul.” The word of God is in your mouth and in your heart so you can do it.” Moses was exhorting the Israelites to embrace all that was noble, good, virtuous, true and faithful from the God who had already shown them such compassion on many occasions. All they had to do was to remember the Lord’s goodness to them and consciously live and respond in doing the same…being generous, kind and loving.
At the time of Jesus, Jewish life had a multitude of laws which grew out of the greatest commandment – the double commandment Dt 6: 4-9 and Leviticus 19:18, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and might and your neighbour as yourself.” This is called the Shema and all Jews even today recite it twice daily. This reflected the two tablets of the Ten Commandments … first three commending love of God and the last seven commanding love of neighbour.
We have here in Lk 10: 25-37 the lawyer whose initial attitude was to test Jesus. He knew the requirements of the law but yet asks Jesus what he should do to inherit eternal life. He calls Jesus ‘teacher’, but he was not seeking to be taught. His plan was to test the extent of Jesus knowledge. Jesus answers by posing a question and the tables are turned and the lawyer is tested. His immediate response is to recite the Shema. Jesus advises him to “DO this and live.” But now he appears to question what is meant by neighbour.
The Essenes of Qumran regarded neighbour as one who shares the same religious persuasion as themselves while the Zealots recognised only those who shared the same nationality and ethnicity as themselves. The average regarded their fellow Jew as one who is well and in good standing within the Jewish community as neighbour.
Jesus cleverly and subtly uses the parable of the Good Samaritan to bring home his point. He uses the Levite (who had hereditary religious tasks to perform), the temple priest (who had to maintain ritual purity or he could not perform his temple tasks) and a Samaritan (who as a cultural adversary was looked down upon by Jews, as many of them had intermarried with Gentiles and they did not worship in the temple) The Levite and priest passed by and neglected the man in danger of his life.
Q: Were they weighing up their options and obligations? Where are we in a similar situation? What is my immediate reaction on seeing my neighbour in distress?
Finally we get the picture of the man doing…The enemy demonstrated compassion and administers to the injured man in a loving and caring manner, not rationalising what the cost would be or how inconvenienced he would be. This religious heretic, unwelcome foreigner’s response to one in need, was simply loving, God-like compassion. He was counter cultural disregarding laws and cultural practices, using good sense and wisdom. He knows no limits and desires to bring healing and restoration of health irrespective of ethnic boundaries. The lawyer’s question is answered as he is equipped with difficult enactment “to GO and DO LIKEWISE.”
In our society today there are countless victims along the road, many suffering from ignorance, disease, violence, depression, old age, poverty, homelessness, floods and fires. Many need only a little help, a hug, some advice an open ear, a genuine smile and a few minutes of our time to unburden.
We grow in understanding of this God of love and compassion, this God of justice and who makes all things new, by participating as active agents of compassion, justice and newness (Jack Jezreel)
Let suffering stir our love to action…………. What does this say to me?
Sr Cynthia Thompson O.P.