The Good Samaritan
In recent weeks and days we have seen the importance of decision making, the pain and the torture and the sleepless nights some people in our Government and backbenches have experienced in coming to a final decision, a decision that will affect countless thousands of women and their unborn children in the years to come.
I do not wish to dwell on the outcome of this week. That is for another day. But some of what follows could be applied now to how we address the topic of the unborn from now on.
What the readings for the Gospel tells us is the importance of coming to the right decision and the part that flawed reasoning takes that we can infer from the Levite and the priest on their way to worship.
As we might reflect on the decisions of various public representatives, it is strangely appropriate that the parable presented to us today is in fact about coming to a right way of thinking and acting out of that conviction.
The stained glass window on the left hand side of the cathedral or the north side, three windows down, shows clearly in summary the Good Samaritan and behind him one turning to the left and the other to the right, the priest and the Levite going their separate ways.
The two baddies in the story were those who purportedly worshipped God and were on their way to do so and as we know so well, ignored the pressing urgent need before them that should have taken priority. Their reasoning was based on human regulations of what was clean and unclean. They categorised the person before them and turned away.
Their false sense of what was right, their narrow focus on uncleanness and thereby were losing sight of the God they worshipped. They made a deliberate decision by their body language and movement – no words of theirs are recorded. Theirs was silent inaction and avoidance of what and who was put before them. The poor person who was violated has his dignity violated again by two acts of deliberate avoidance. The Levite and priest are so heavenly-minded that they are of no earthly use. They have also sinned against themselves as well as giving dishonour to the esteem others have accorded to their chosen profession /way of life. It must have been quite shocking to Jesus’ hearers that He would have used the analogy without of course naming and shaming any named individual or group before him.
In the course of our day, certain unexpected situations will crop up – each challenging us to react and decide, a phone call and the caller ID makes us decide whether we are going to bother, the neighbour or fellow parishioner who hasn’t spotted the fact that we have seen them first and we dive into a shop or cross the road rather than face a tedious and time consuming conversation, someone we want to avoid, in a coffee shop or restaurant, we don’t want to be caught. Where we sit in a train or a bus or an airplane, glad to avoid discomfort and avoiding someone we find boring or a pain to listen to! Even, dare I say it, where we sit in church in order not to be seen by others!? We can all think of a person who might take up our valuable time and who never usually show any real interest in us, who are better at talking than listening.
We are glad we avoided them and saved ourselves a tedious situation
And how much they might actually need someone to talk to and we have left the opportunity pass us by?
We might purposely avoid that street corner or bridge in the city where a beggar with a cup might be perched.
It can be hard when people we know deliberately ignore us. And we are all guilty of avoiding others. But rather than dwelling on my hurt, have I done the same thing, where the first person to nab me as it were keeps me from meeting the people I would prefer to meet?
I suppose we have to allow everyone a bad day now and again and make allowances but we can really hurt people by ignoring them – adding insult to injury to the poor man was beaten up in the story was passed by and who could, we imagine, perhaps hear the footsteps of potential help fade away in the distance.
Finally, it is also a case of procrastinating. Maybe the priest and Levite decided to wait and return. Who knows? After all it is only a story but we are delving in to their motives, because we can see times when we delayed to act. The Samaritan did what he could, and did return a second time. His mercy was not a one off, but a way of life.
Would it not be an indictment if we thought that there were people in our lives awaiting a visit, a phone call, or who need an end to our silent treatment, an end to a dispute and an argument and we are the ones holding back from forgiveness and reconciliation with them, even though we think they deserve our coldness?
The simple lessons of today therefore are
1. Our neighbour is not far away at all
2. The three ways we fail to live up to what the parable teaches us, i.e., in how we fail in relation to our neighbour (both born and unborn) are
3. Knowing we can’t do it all but that we can do what is within our grasp
The question asked at the beginning of the Gospel today was:
(the emphasis is on doing)
'what must I do to inherit eternal life?'
The answer in the words of Jesus in the Gospel is : 'Go and do likewise'
Or as in the commercial for the sports gear: 'Just do it'