HOMILY & IDEAS

Dt 30:10-14; Col 1:15-20; Luke 10:25-37.

Here are some stones I have overturned to see what ideas are underneath. I hope you can grab hold of something, pull -- and discover that it has some homiletic roots.

The parable of the Good Samaritan is certainly one of the best known parables told by Jesus -- second perhaps only to the parable of the Prodigal Son. Reading a few biblical commentaries on the exchange between Jesus and the Lawyer and the following parable opens up a world of nuances that could normally fall between the cracks. The identities and motives of the lawyer, the priest and the Levite all make for interesting homily themes.

However, what has occupied my prayer this week is the fact that if you ask nearly anyone the question -- What is the point of the parable of the Good Samaritan? The answer inevitably comes back with little delay --That all people are our neighbors -- That we should love everyone who is in need.

Intellectually we understand the point of the parable; however it can oftentimes be a challenge to move the energies of intellectual understanding to our hearts, hands, and feet. The action of coming to the right intellectual conclusion about the point of the parable somehow satisfies the challenge raised by the story and we think that is enough. This process seems to happen to everyone at different time of our lives. I have been asking myself -- Why?

What is it that can keep us from moving such energies to our hearts, hands and feet?

From my own life I have come up with the following excuses:

No time. I can not stop and help.

Someone else will stop and help, so I will not.

Someone with the appropriate expertise will stop and help, so I will not.

I have filled my quota of people to help this week. I can not help, so I will not.

I am tired, I can not stop and help.

This will turn into a long-lasting, draining, demanding, dependent relationship. I do not want that in my life, so I will not stop and help.

I may be putting my own life in danger by helping, so I will not.

I am afraid of being rejected by the person I am about to help, so I will not.

I am afraid of appearing overly-pious and as a grandstander if someone sees me going out of my way to help, so I will not.

I am suspicious that I will help for the wrong motives. I think I am more interested in how good it will make ME feel to help. That seems sinful. I should avoid sin. I will not stop and help.

I am uncomfortable with the race, ethnicity, orientation, or gender of the person, so I will not help.

Do any of those sound familiar? If you asked me about the point of the story of the parable of the Good Samaritan during the times I was feeling the above feelings I would unhesitatingly state -- Well, that everyone is our neighbor, of course! Would this intellectual understanding mean a hill of beans to the person in need? No.

So, how do we get passed the above feelings?

There are lots of ways I suppose, but here are three to consider: Prudence, Gratitude & Foresight.

Ask for the gift of prudence from the Holy Spirit every day. The dying man on the side of the road to Jericho could have been a good actor laying as bait for his band of fellow robbers. Unfortunately things like this happened back then -- and they happen now. However, maybe the Samaritan said a prayer that morning such as this:

Lord, give me the prudence to see all things as they really are. Give me the prudence to know how I may be the best instrument of your love today. Give me the prudence to know about the workings and natures of things seen and unseen in all the situations I enter today. Direct my heart, my hands and my feet this day.

When the Samaritan saw the dying man perhaps the only thing he felt was compassion. The thought of being cautious and suspicious was quelled by the prudence for which he prayed. Pray for prudence.

Gratitude. There is no greater motivator to do good than being filled with gratitude yourself. That is, one feels so blessed, so cared for, so loved, so fortunate, so happy to be alive that the site of someone in need causes a natural and strong pulling on the heart to stop and help. The intellect hardly operates here. The feeling is immediate and unmediated: Compassion. It simply feels like the right thing to do. The motive is pure. The reward is the opportunity to share the love one has received with someone in need.

Feeling gratitude sometimes must begin as a conscious exercise. We must remind ourselves of our blessings. With enough exercise it progresses into an action or realization that becomes second nature. Pray for the grace to truly feel grateful.

Foresight. Matthew 25 forces us to consider our own judgment. It forces us to consider the future. It forces us to have foresight. This is the conversation I want to have with our Lord:

Lord, when did I see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did I see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did I see you ill or in prison, and visit you? And the Lord will say to him in reply, Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me. Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.

Prudence, Gratitude, Foresight.

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