In today’s Gospel of Luke 10:25-37, Jesus is challenged by “a scholar of the law”, most likely one of the scribes. Scribes were among the two percent or so who were literate and used their skill as interpreters of the law. This scholar was seeking to embarrass and shame Jesus in front of those who had gathered around them so to discredit this upstart peasant.
Instead of being shamed, Jesus used the encounter as a powerful teaching moment for the scribe and those who gathered to listen then and today. Jesus answered the scribe’s question with another: “What is written in the law? How do you read it?” The scribe masterfully quoted the Torah from Deuteronomy 6:4-5 and Leviticus 19:18 regarding how we are to love God and neighbor. Jesus showed agreement with the scribe’s interpretation when he said, “You have answered correctly” showing again that he has not come to abolish the Law but fulfill it. The fulfillment here is not just knowing about the Law, not just knowing the Law, but putting the Law into practice, “do this and you will live.”
Not comfortable having the tables turned on him, the scribe sought to save face or “justify himself” by asking Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” The scribe again knew full well the answer was his “own people” a fellow Israelite, as found in Leviticus 19:13-18. Jesus will raise the bar higher again with his presentation of the parable of the Good Samaritan.
A man is completely stripped and beaten such that he is unrecognizable. The listeners do not know if this man is a Jew or a Gentile. The only ones identified in the parable are the priest, the Levite, and the Samaritan. For the priest and the Levite, they both chose the same course of action, they “passed by on the opposite side.” Each of them, the reasons are not shared by Jesus, refused to come close. They chose not to encounter the wounded man. The Samaritan was willing to risk because “he was moved with compassion.”
The Samaritan, most likely a trader and traveled these roads before, had mercy on this man left for dead. He, unlike the priest and the Levite who kept the man at a distance, was willing to come close to encounter and enter into the chaos of this stranger. He did not allow his fear, bias, prejudice, and/or indifference to dictate his actions, but instead was moved without hesitation to provide assistance.
The scribe, at the end of the parable, again answered correctly when he was asked, “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.”
The scribe in today’s Gospel account from Luke began his encounter with Jesus with the sole intent of making Jesus look foolish, to diminish him. Jesus, instead of retaliating, taught him with his own words. We are to love God with all our heart, soul, and strength. We are to embrace our God who is willing to come close to us, who has compassion for us and is willing to show us his mercy because he is willing to enter into the chaos of our lives. He comes close to us to fill us with his love to overflowing such that we will move beyond our own selfish limitations, to allow ourselves to be moved with compassion, to love our neighbor, who is everyone.
The travesty of what is happening on our southern border regarding our brothers and sisters seeking asylum or a better life is our failure, our refusal, and/or our unwillingness to come close, to encounter, to hear the parable of the Good Samaritan. We refuse to see those seeking refuge and so many “others” as neighbors, as human beings, as brothers and sisters, and children of God. Too many of us have grown callous and as Pope Francis has said, have forgotten how to weep.
Jesus calls us to open ourselves up to love, to risk, to show compassion, and mercy to others, for the Gospel is not just for a select few. We do not know if the scribe curved in upon himself, refused to repent, or accepted the teaching of Jesus to “Go and do likewise”, to go and live his life like the Good Samaritan, who without hesitation was willing to provide aid for his brother in dire need. Will we repent from our fears, biases, prejudices, and indifference and go and do likewise, go without hesitation, to serve anyone who is need? If we do so, we will live and have eternal life.
Photo credit: Stuart Palley/Washington Post 10/13/18 picture of Magale Nieto Romero and her son, Jose Torentino Nieto, at the Nogales Port seeking asylum.