As the title suggests we will explore the Samaritan question.
Note: I am writing a paper called Samaritan All. Because it is like boiling the ocean (an impossible task) I will publish portions and sections as I go. Then when all the parts are ready, present them as a unified whole. That’s the plan. Here is one.
The Samaritan Question: Who is good?
The Parable of the Good Samaritan.
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.” (Lk 10:29-37).
But because he wished to justify himself, he said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” (Lk 10”28-29).
It is an important question we must ask ‘who is my neighbor’ and yet it contains within itself a fault we wish to hide, ‘I want to and I do exclude others’.
Jesus very lovingly explains to him that the example of the Samaritan, universally avoided by the Jewish people, has the capacity for good and has the calling to be good. Recall also that when Jesus left Judea and returned to Galilee, he had to pass through Samaria (Jn 4:4). Let’s put those two pieces together.
The story of the Good Samaritan occurs on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho. This is not Samaria territory. It is a part of Judah with its heavy foreign influences. Even still, it isn’t just that the Samaritan did good but he did good as a foreigner in the land of Judah. Going further into the topic, Jesus did not avoid the place of Samaria and the people who live there as he had to pass through Samaria and we see in the other gospel portions later.
Who is Good?
An official asked him this question, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus answered him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone (Lk 18:18-19).
Who is good? (I am certain of two things: There is a God and I am not him).
Jesus is not disavowing his goodness as he cannot. He is the second person of the Blessed Trinity. His statement is meant to reveal at the foundation of it: All good comes from God because goodness is the nature of God. Yet man is good by degree. We know from Genesis.
Then God said: Let us make human beings in our image, after our likeness. God created mankind in his image; in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God looked at everything he had made, and found it very good (Gen 1: 26a, 27, 31).
We are made in the image and called to the likeness of God.
How then can we know this ‘being made’? How can we know ‘neighbor’?
Fruits and Gifts
The seven gifts of the Holy Spirit are wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord.
The fruits of the Holy Spirit are charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, long-suffering, humility or gentleness, fidelity or faithfulness, modesty, continence or self-control and chastity.
There is always a tension between doing good and appearing to do good. Early in Lent we confront the question every year, specifically. There is always a difference between actual good and simulation of good.
- Do we see the good the Samaritans do in our midst? The good Samaritan did good not in his own place but in YOUR PLACE and IN PLACE OF YOU (think about that twist of wording). He attended to his foreigner.
- Do we pass through Samaria, too? Who or what places do we avoid? Do we subscribe subhuman attributes to the people and places of the poor?
- Do I wish to JUSTIFY MYSELF? This is a key question. Do I spend time justifying WHY I refuse to help him or her?
Rest in the Lord
On the seventh day God completed the work he had been doing; he rested on the seventh day from all the work he had undertaken. God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work he had done in creation (Gn 2:2-3).
Try not to worry. Just try to be good.
Being good is baked into us (gifts) and made to be imaged (seen) through us (fruits).
Peace be with you,