Monday, October 5, 2015

It's not the law that saves you – it's Christ

 "But think of the poor Joan of Arc: today she is a saint! Poor girl: these learned people burned her alive because they said she was a heretic... But these learned people, the ones who knew the sure doctrine, were the Pharisees: removed from the love of God. – Pope Francis
Gospel Text: (Lk 10:25-37)
There was a scholar of the law who stood up to test Jesus and said,
“Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
Jesus said to him, “What is written in the law?
How do you read it?”
He said in reply,
“You shall love the Lord, your God,
with all your heart,
with all your being,
with all your strength,
and with all your mind,
and your neighbor as yourself.”
He replied to him, “You have answered correctly;
do this and you will live.”

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.
hen 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.”

What does it mean to be a Christian?  Don’t many of us identify being Christian with faithful observance of external requirements?  We see religion primarily as observing  the “do’s and do not's” we have been taught.

But Jesus’ story of the Good Samaritan challenges this basic assumption.

A man fell victim to robbers on his way from Jerusalem to Jericho.  He was stripped and beaten and left half dead.

Two men approach, a priest and a Levite. These men, from religious classes known for their punctilious observance of the Jewish law and enjoying the very highest religious status and respect among the Jews, pass by the victim, actually crossing to the other side of the road.

Then a Samaritan traveler, a member of a break-away religious sect despised by Jews, comes upon the victim.  He is moved with compassion, dresses the victim’s wounds and brings him to an inn covering all expenses.

Then Jesus puts the question to the scholar of the law who was trying to test him, “Which of these  was neighbor to the robbers’ victim?”

The answer is obvious:  not the priest or the Levite but the despised Samaritan whose heart was moved with compassion. For Jesus this Samaritan becomes the examplar of living the great commandments of love. He only was neighbor!

Punctilious fulfillment of religious obligations that does not include compassion for those in need does not make a true disciple of Jesus.

The Gospel challenges us Christians: Who are the individuals or groups  in our lives for whom we lack compassion? For whom  have we not yet become neighbor?

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