Homily for Oct. 3rd, 2016. Luke 10:25-37.
A “scholar of the law” (the Ten Commandments) asks Jesus: “Who is my neighbor?” He wants to know: what are the limits to my obligation? Jesus never answers that question. Instead he tells a story about what it means to be a neighbor. And he concludes the story with a question of his own: “Which of these three was neighbor to the robbers’ victim?” The answer is obvious: the Samaritan. But Jesus’ questioner can’t bring himself to say that hated word. Samaritans were despised by Jews. So he resorts to a circumlocution: “The one who treated him with mercy.” To which Jesus responds: AGo and do likewise.@ The man had asked about the limits of his obligation. The parable says in effect: >there are no limits.=
How, we ask, can Jesus make such a radical demand? For one reason alone: because this is the way he, Jesus Christ, treats us. Jesus is the despised outsider. Jesus is the one who finds us lying mortally wounded along life=s way. For no merits of our own, but simply because of his infinite compassion, Jesus comes to our aid. He binds up our wounds, pouring upon us the healing oil of his forgiveness in the sacraments of baptism and penance, the exhilarating wine of his love in his holy word and in the Eucharist.
He entrusts us to the care of his Church, promising to come again and again as often as may be necessary, to tend to our every need. Because of this total generosity toward us in our need, a readiness to help which caused Jesus to lay down his life for us, he is able to say to us: ‘See how much I have done for you C look what I am doing for you even now! Then go and do the same for others.’
The man who asks Jesus, AWhat must I do to inherit eternal life?@ is like many sincerely religious people today. Wanting to do what is right, he develops a spirit directly contrary to God=s law, even when he thinks he is obeying the law. His question, AAnd who is my neighbor?@ shows that he was unable to get beyond the law=s details. To be cured, he needed to encounter the Lawgiver.
His name is Jesus Christ.