This is the Third Sunday of Epiphany, when the set Gospel reading is the continuing revelation of Christ’s glory, shown in his first miracle when water was turned into wine at a wedding in Cana. As it’s the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, today’s reflection originates from the parable of the Good Samaritan and resources offered by the persecuted churches in Burkina Faso in West Africa. These are provided by Churches Together in Britain and Ireland and further details can be found on their website at ctbi.org.uk
With my prayers,
”Which of these…was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” The lawyer said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”
From Luke 10:25-36.
The priest and Levite who walked by on the other side may have had religious reasons for not helping. The beginning of the text for the Week of Prayer tells us how the teacher of the law wanted to justify himself. The priest and the Levite in the parable would have felt justified in what they had done. Yet on many occasions, Jesus is critical of religious leadership for placing the rules of religion ahead of the obligation always to do good.
This parable of Jesus not only challenges us to do good, but also to widen our vision. We do not learn what is good and holy only from those who share our confessional or religious worldview, but often from those who are different from us. Light and love are embodied in our enemy too. The Good Samaritan is often the one we do not expect….
The Good Samaritan did what he could out of his own resources: he poured oil and wine and bandaged the man’s wounds and put him on his own animal. The Samaritan went further still by promising to pay for the man’s care. When we see the world through the Samaritan’s eyes, every situation can be an opportunity to help those in need. This is where love manifests itself. The example of the Good Samaritan motivates us to ask ourselves how to respond to our neighbour. He gave wine and oil, restoring the man and giving him hope. What can we give, so that we can be a part of God’s work of healing a broken world?…. How do we empower such courageous behaviour, recognising there is a cost?
At the end of the parable, Jesus asked the lawyer: who was the neighbour to the man who was robbed? The lawyer replied “the one who showed him mercy”. He does not say “the Samaritan” and we might imagine that the hostility between Samaritans and Jews made that answer hard to admit. We often discover our neighbours in the most unexpected people, even those whose very name or origins we find difficult to utter. In today’s world, where polarised politics often set those of different religious identities against one another, Jesus challenges us through this parable to see the importance of our vocation to transgress borders and walls of separation.
Like the lawyer, we are challenged to reflect upon how we live our lives, not merely in terms of whether we do good or not, but whether, like the priest and the Levite, we are neglecting to do mercy.
Through these words – “Go and do likewise” – Jesus sends each of us, and our churches, to live out His commandment to love. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, we are sent out to be “other Christs”, reaching out to a suffering humanity in compassion and mercy. Like the Good Samaritan towards the injured man, we can choose not to reject those who are different, rather cultivating a culture of proximity and goodwill – actively seeking out and moving towards opportunities to be hospitable, to welcome and to share – in our common task to bring to fruition the dream of God.