The Good Samaritan: a reflection by Bishop Sylvester David OMI

Reflection for 5 Oct 2020. The Good Samaritan: Luke 10:25-37.

“And now a lawyer stood up and, to test him, asked, ‘Master, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ He said to him, ‘What is written in the Law? What is your reading of it?’ He replied, ‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbour as yourself.’ Jesus said to him, ‘You have answered right, do this and life is yours.’ But the man was anxious to justify himself and said to Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbour?’ In answer Jesus said, ‘A man was once on his way down from Jerusalem to Jericho and fell into the hands of bandits; they stripped him, beat him and then made off, leaving him half dead. Now a priest happened to be travelling down the same road, but when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. In the same way a Levite who came to the place saw him, and passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan traveller who came on him was moved with compassion when he saw him. He went up to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them. He then lifted him onto his own mount and took him to an inn and looked after him. Next day, he took out two denarii and handed them to the innkeeper and said, “Look after him, and on my way back I will make good any extra expense you have.” Which of these three, do you think, proved himself a neighbour to the man who fell into the bandits’ hands?’ He replied, ‘The one who showed pity towards him.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Go, and do the same yourself.'” 

This is probably one of the most well known stories in the New Testament which teaches a powerful lesson on being non-partisan. It boggles the mind then to find so much partisanship in the world of today. There are insiders and outsiders. We see this clearly in the world of politics and also in the spheres of religion, commerce, neighbourhoods, country clubs, car ownership, health status, professional status and sport.

In the Gospel reading of today, Jesus puts an end to partisan affiliations that exclude others. Notice that the religious people – those who knew the catechism of their day, refused to show mercy but the Samaritan who in effect was an untouchable, imitated God by showing mercy and going beyond the call of duty. Jesus teaches that the neighbour is not only those who look like me, think like me, live in my neighbourhood, believe what I do, worship like me, eat like me, and support the political party and sporting clubs that I do. No – none of these is important. The neighbour is anyone in need. Without this kind of mindset, I run the risk of turning Jesus into an outsider who is not welcome in my circles.

Bishop Sylvester David OMI
VG: Archdiocese of Cape Town.

Image: The good Samaritan, after Delacroix by Vincent van Gogh, 1890

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