A lot of what we see in today’s gospel is based more on what is not said than what is said.
For example, if I were to ask you to describe the characters in Jesus’ story, you could tell me at least you had a Levite, a priest and a charitable Samaritan. However, you could tell me nothing about the man who fell in with robbers. Jesus literally says nothing else about him. We know that he was left for dead and that means he was unconscious and maybe comatose. So even he cannot say anything about himself in Jesus’ story.
Why is this important? Because since we know nothing about the man, we do not know if he is a good person or a bad person. We do not know if he was another robber in a dog eat dog world. We do not know if he was on his way to do good. We do not even know if he is Jewish or Roman. We only know that he is a man set upon by robbers and left for dead.
We also know that this parable is the answer to a question: Who is my neighbor? But the man who asked the question asked it in light of the second part of his two-part question: What must I do to inherit eternal life? The first part is to love the Lord with all your heart, soul mind and strength.
The entire parable assumes the first part: love the Lord with all your heart, soul mind and strength. What is the second part? Who is my neighbor and how do I treat him? The parable answers the question.
Jesus calls us not just to do good. You can be an atheist and do good and many atheists do. It is to treat others as God the Father would treat them. That is why not knowing anything about the victim is so important.
How would God the Father treat that victim? As a son. Your role is to treat others as a child of God, no matter who they are. Whether they are liberal or conservative, enemy or friend, good or bad, sinner or saint. It does not matter; whatever God the Father would want you to do for that person is what you should do for that person.
So, Jesus is giving us the standard of how to treat another person. Treat the person as God the Father would treat him or her.
This is why prayer is so important because if you do not pray, you cannot possibly have the slightest hint of the mind of the God and each of us have a calling to treat others as God wants them treated.
We can see a great example of this in Romans 12 when Paul tells us to treat our enemies with kindness because vengeance is God’s role in the discipline of the Father. We are not called to be agents of God’s discipline, but his fatherly love.
We can correct another at another time, but even that has to be with love.
I had the experience many years ago of writing for a Catholic newspaper, probably one of the most conservative. I wrote a story about the Archdiocese of Boston’s ministry to AIDS patients. This was when AIDS was an automatic death sentence. The man, who also had AIDS and who ministered to AIDS patients in the name of the Archdiocese of Boston told me that he often dealt with the situation that a man would be dying in the hospital, his parents would go to see him and learn for the first time that he had AIDS and it came from him living a homosexual lifestyle. Immediately, the parents would walk out.
He told me that three weeks later he would telephone them to tell them that their son had died. He said they would say thank you for telling us and hang up the phone. He added but they still went to church every Sunday.
Their actions are not what God wants us to do for others, no matter whom they are.
Meanwhile, I was called to the bedside of a young man who had overdosed on cocaine. He was brain dead. However, his family surrounded him and were praying to God for him that he might receive God’s mercy and love. I was called there to administer the last rites. They knew
What happened to him, but in their love as a family they surrounded him and prayed for him.
Contrasting the two situations both based on sinful lifestyles, which one is what God is calling us to do for others?
This is how we have a calling to treat others, but we cannot do that without being people of prayer. The world could never be so loving as we are called to do be because in order to do that we must draw our strength for God himself.
Remember how this Gospel begins, how do I inherit eternal life? Living the commandments of loving God and neighbor. You cannot love God if you do not know him and you cannot treat the neighbor as God would if you do not know his mind.
We must be deeply rooted in prayer; we must be faithful to the Eucharist and stay close to the sacraments. We must act as God wants us to act and when we are deeply rooted in prayer we will do exactly that.
Photo: Balthasar van Cortbemde, The Good Samaritan [Public domain]