Gospel Reflection ....
In the Gospel, a man was travelling to Jericho. He fell among robbers who stripped him and beat him, leaving him half dead. A Priest and later a Levite walked by. They did not help. There are many good reasons why the Priest or Levite crossed to the other side of the road.
Firstly, the man was half dead, that is presumably unconscious and would have appeared dead. Anyone who touches a dead person, according to Jewish Law incurred a ritual uncleanliness which required a week of purification, costly and humiliating cleansing ceremonies. The Priest would have also been forbidden to eat of the tithes of the faithful or perform religious ceremonies. Furthermore, he would have to return to the temple where he had just been officiating and undergo the rite of purification.
A second reason for not helping the man in distress is: the ‘fear’ that the robbers might be hiding nearby waiting for another victim.
Finally, since the wounded man is unconscious and unidentifiable (no clothing to indicate social status, race or religion) there is no way of knowing if he is a good man or a sinner. The Law forbade a Jew to help a sinner in any way. Therefore, the Priest and Levite had many convenient reasons not to help.
The Samaritan also had good reason to “pass on the other side.”
For example, the dying man was a Jew and Jews looked down on Samaritans. The Samaritan, by helping the wounded man, shows remarkable love. He takes the man to an inn; he pays for his upkeep – looks after him. The Samaritans sees someone in need and just helps him, even though it is very inconvenient for him. In to
day’s Gospel Jesus says to the lawyer “Go and do the same!” (He says the same to us).
The Priest and Levite found many convenient reasons not to help the wounded man. Our Lord does not excuse them, neither does the lawyer. Even the lawyer saw the actions of the Pharisee and Levite as wrong, because, they did not keep the greater commandment which is “Love thy neighbour as yourself.”
I was told about a woman who was standing on a curb waiting for the light to say ‘WALK’. On the opposite curb was a girl about 17, she too was waiting for the light to say ‘WALK’.
The woman noticed the girl was crying. The woman could also see the terrible grief that filled the girl’s eyes. The light changed; each were walking towards each other. The woman’s motherly instincts came rushing to the surface. Every part of her wanted to reach out and comfort the girl but the woman opted to pass her by. She didn’t even greet her. The woman walked by because she feared rejection. The woman said later, “Why didn’t I turn and say, ‘Honey, can I help?’ But I didn’t. I walked on by. Sure, she might have rejected me and thought me a nosey person but so what!”
The hero of today’s parable is the Good Samaritan. He reminds me of St Damien. Father Damien was born in Belgium in 1840. He decided to join a religious order and joined the Fathers of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary. He was sent on a mission to the Hawaiian Islands in 1864 and ordained a priest in Honolulu that same year. On the island of Molokai, the Hawaiian government had set up a leper settlement in 1858. It was known as a living graveyard because there was no cure for the disease. Once people contracted the disease they were taken to the island by force and never again saw their family. There was no food brought to the island either; these poor sick lepers were supposed to fend for themselves even though as the disease progressed one lost nearly all one’s fingers and toes.
In 1873 at his own request and with the permission of the Bishop, Father Damien decided to minister in Molokai as their resident priest; there were about 600 lepers there then. Father Damien knew that having served on the island he would never be allowed to leave the island due to the contagious nature of the disease. He dressed their ulcers, helped them to erect cottages and he built many buildings himself; he dug the lepers’ graves and made their coffins.
Fr Damien taught the people their value in eyes of God. He also established Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration. A church had 24 hours a day Exposition, with a roster. In 1885, 12 years after he first began to minister on the island, he noticed that he had leprosy, as he no longer felt hot water when poured on his feet. He died 3 years later in 1888. His feast day is May10. He became a leper among lepers. He suffered and died for them.
Our Lord taught us how to live and how to love. Even though He is God, He suffered the Passion and Crucifixion for us, even though we were still sinners. That level of love is too great for our limited minds to comprehend. Yet we are called to do the same. As He said: “love one another as I have loved you.”
by Fr Doug Harris