But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?" Jesus replied, "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, `Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.' Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?" He said, "The one who showed him mercy." Jesus said to him, "Go and do likewise." Luke 10:25-37
This Sunday, we read about the Good Samaritan. A young man, of education and faith has come to Jesus. He wants a deeper and clearer understanding of how he is to live. Jesus chooses to tell him hoe to be a neighbor by defining the neighbor as a Samaritan. Noe the Samaritans were the sworn enemies of the Jews at the time. The Samaritans were part of the Jewish people. They did not go into Egypt as slaves but satyed behind, intermarrying with the natives and taking on some of their customs. They were not enthusiastic about the restoration of Jerusalem, but rather understood God in a broader sense. They were despised by the Jewish authorities of the time, painted as evil with a wide brush stroke.
It was a Samaritan that took the role of compassionate neighbor. It was a sworn enemy who demonstrated God's love in time of need. It was one related but outcast from society that was the one who saved a stranger. Often times, those who we know best can be least compassionate and understanding, and our neighbors can irritate us and make us mad. Jesus chooses to invite us to a place where we examine how we really love, and who we really despise. Jesus invites us to consider our most despised as the neighbor. He makes us uncomfortable to invite us to see our truth.
Today, I ask God to help me be a good neighbor, to those that are easy, and especially to those who make it hard. May we all turn from our loathing and be moved with compassion. May we be faithful to God by serving those who challenge our patience. May we know God's love within us as we
O Lord, mercifully receive the prayers of your people who call upon you, and grant that they may know and understand what things they ought to do, and also may have grace and power faithfully to accomplish them; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.