Friday, July 9, 2010

Who is my Neighbor?

Reflections on the Readings
Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time - July 11, 2010, Year C
Seventh Sunday after Pentecost
By Dennis S. Hankins

Who is my Neighbor?

But he desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?"

The lawyer asks about his eternal destiny, but his questions embody more than this inquiry.  He is putting Jesus to the test.  The first question directed to Jesus is, "Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?"  Jesus answers the lawyer with a question: "How do you read what is written in the law?"  It is his answer to this question that receives Jesus' endorsement.  

To love God with all of your heart, soul, strength and mind and your neighbor as yourself is to gain God's eternal friendship.  Jesus says to the lawyer, "You have answered right; do this, and you will live."

It is now another question that emerges from the mind of the lawyer.   It is a question that sounds like Cain's response to God's question to him, "Where is Abel your brother?"  Cain responded, "Am I my brother's keeper?" Place that along side of the lawyer's question, "And who is my neighbor?" Both questions are amazingly similar.  

The story of the Good Samaritan is one of the most familiar stories in the Gospels.  Jesus tells this story to open not only the lawyer's heart but our hearts as well to the power of mercy; to be a neighbor to anyone in need of mercy.  The lawyer learns that the law of God, a law he knows very well, is confirmed in mercy.  

He who came from the bosom of the Father, is our merciful neighbor.  "I desire mercy, not sacrifice," says our Lord, quoting the prophet Hosea.(Matthew 9:13)  He not only desires it, he gives it, pouring mercy upon us, for we are the man who fell among robbers.  We are the stripped and beaten.  We are the dead in our trespasses and sins.  In an act of love, Jesus, mercy incarnate, restores us to life, abundant life.  

The highest religious leaders in Jesus' day observe the man fallen into the hands of thieves.  Looking upon him and knowing his devastation, they pass by rather than helping the poor soul.  At this point in his story, Jesus looks deeply into the soul of the lawyer who wishes to justify himself.  Self justification.  It is as flimsy as the clothing Adam and Eve made for themselves.

But it is the Samaritan, a foreigner among the Jews, who is the neighbor.  No one, especially a Jew in Jesus' day, expects anything good, let alone mercy from a Samaritan.  The Samaritans social status reminds us of Jesus' home town of Nazareth.  Nathanael once asked Philip, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?"  Philip responded, "Come and see."  Jesus came out of Nazareth.  Born of the Virgin Mary and loved and nurtured by his earthly father Joseph, Mercy's first home on earth was a small, no nothing place called Nazareth.  And now the whole world is befriended by this gracious neighbor named Jesus, the whole world bathed in his merciful love.

May see the world through eyes of mercy and be a neighbor like Jesus.  Is this not the way of a new Evangelism; the day of a new Pentecost?

May it be so.  Amen.  



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