"What was bitter has become sweet and what is sweet has become bitter" – St Francis when he first embraced the leper
Gospel text (Lk 10:25-37): A teacher of the Law came and began putting Jesus to the test. And he said, «Master, what shall I do to receive eternal life?». Jesus replied, «What is written in the Scripture? How do you understand it?». The man answered, «It is written: You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength and with all your mind. And you shall love your neighbor as yourself». Jesus replied, «What a good answer! Do this and you shall live».
The man wanted to keep up appearances, so he replied, «Who is my neighbor?». Jesus then said, «There was a man going down from Jerusalem to Jericho , and he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him, beat him and went off leaving him half-dead. It happened that a priest was going along that road and saw the man, but passed by on the other side. Likewise a Levite saw the man and passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, too, was going that way, and when he came upon the man, he was moved with compassion. He went over to him and treated his wounds with oil and wine and wrapped them with bandages. Then he put him on his own mount and brought him to an inn where he took care of him. The next day he had to set off, but he gave two silver coins to the innkeeper and told him: ‘Take care of him and whatever you spend on him, I will repay when I come back’». Jesus then asked, «Which of these three, do you think, made himself neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?». The teacher of the Law answered, «The one who had mercy on him». And Jesus said, «Go then and do the same».
Today is the feast of St Francis and providentially chosen, the gospel reading is the parable of the Good Samaritan. In it, a teacher of the Law asks Jesus the kind of question we may have asked ourselves more than once, in our life: «Master, what shall I do to receive eternal life?» (Lk 10:25). He wanted to put Jesus to the test. The Master, though, wisely answers what is written in the Scriptures, that is, to love the Lord your God and your neighbor as yourself (cf. Lk 10:27). The key is to love. If we seek the eternal life, we know that «faith and hope will go away, but love will remain forever» (cf. 1Cor 13:13). Any life project, any spirituality, that has not love in its center, furthers us away from the actual meaning of our existence. An often forgotten but important reference point, is to love oneself. Only from our personal identity can we love God and our neighbors.
The teacher of the Law goes still further when asking Jesus: «Who is my neighbor?» (Lk 10:29). And he gets his answer with a tale, a parable, a little story, far away from complicated theories, but with a clear message. The model of the loving person is a Samaritan, that is, someone who is the outcast, someone excluded from God's people. When they saw the man beaten and half-dead, a priest and a Levite just ignored him and passed by. Those who apparently are closer to God (the priest and the Levite) are those who were farther away from their neighbor in this parable. The teacher of the Law avoids to say the word “Samaritan” to state who did behave as neighbor to the wounded man: «The one who had mercy on him» (Lk 10:37).
Jesus' proposal is clear: «Go then and do the same». It is not a theoretical conclusion of the debate but an invitation to live the reality of love, which is not only a vaporous feeling but a behavior that defeats socials denominations and stems from a person's heart. Blessed Teresa of Calcutta reminds us:
At the end of life we will not be judged by how many diplomas we have received, how much money we have made, how many great things we have done. We will be judged by 'I was hungry and you gave me to eat, I was naked and you clothed me, I was homeless and you took me in.' Hungry not only for bread - but hungry for love. Naked not only for clothing - but naked for human dignity and respect. Homeless not only for want of a room of bricks - but homeless because of rejection.