Who is my neighbor?

The Good Samaritan by Alan Collins

Homily for the 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time

(Scriptures for today's liturgy)

Audio for homily

Were I a screenwriter, I’d love to write a screenplay
for the story of the good Samaritan.
I think it would make a very good short film.

I’d keep the story in its own first century Mediterranean setting
and I’d open with an aerial shot,
zooming in on a band of highway muggers
walking away from a limp, half-naked, wounded body
on the road that goes from Jerusalem to Jericho.

Cut then to a scene in a simple inn
where an innkeeper is waiting on two customers,
seated at different tables, each having dinner.
From the innkeeper’s conversation with them we learn that
one is a priest and the other a Levite.

Like most priests, this one is complaining…
complaining about how much work he has to do with no one to help.

The Levite’s chatter with the server helps us understand
that Levites also worked in the temple, as assistants to priests.
Their contemporary Catholic counterparts would be
deacons, lectors, ministers of the Eucharist,
ushers, cantors and altar servers.

The priest and Levite each listen in
on the other’s conversation with the innkeeper,
but, class dividing them, they don’t speak to each other...
UNTIL the innkeeper mentions -- the Samaritans:
those lousy, lazy, good-for-nothing foreigners
who are nothing but terror and trouble for law-abiding folk
like the priest, the Levite and the innkeeper.

NOW these two temple-types have something to talk about,
they have something in common:
their animosity towards the despised Samaritans.

After a while, the priest looks out the window
and noting where the sun is in the sky, he decides it’s time to leave.
As the camera follows him down the road
until he comes across the man from the first scene:
he’s still bleeding and in worse shape now than before.
He wants to help but touching the man
might render the priest ritually impure,
-- and he does need to get back on time to the temple for services --
so he crosses to the other side of the road and moves on.

Cut back to the inn where Levite, who had ordered dessert,
is just leaving the table.
The camera follows him down the road to the same, sad sight.
He stops, he looks… he thinks,
“The priest must have seen this man and done nothing.
Maybe he knows something I don’t know.
And I don’t want to seem to be upstaging my boss…”
So he crosses to the other side of the road and moves on.

The Good Samaritan by Alan Collins

As the camera closes in on the dying man’s face,
two sandaled feet enter the frame.
The camera pulls back and there stands a man, troubled and in tears,
remembering the times when he’s been beat up and left on the road,
just for being -- a Samaritan.

He pulls some oil and wine from his sack,
cleans and bandages the man’s wounds and hoists him on his donkey
to take him to an inn he remembers is just down the road.

Cut back to the inn where innkeeper isn’t at all keen
on taking in a Samaritan but the man who brought him has money
with a promise of more money to come in a few days.

The final scene is a small crowd gathered outside the temple.
The camera approaches from the vantage point of the Levite
who notices the priest he met back at the inn:
he walks over and stands near him.

As the crowd is listening to a young rabbi speak
a legal scholar in the audience begins to question him.
The camera takes a two shot, just the rabbi and the lawyer who asks,
“What must I do to inherit eternal life?”
The rabbi answers with a question, “What does the law tell you?”
And the lawyer recites the well-known answer,
“Love the Lord with all you have and love your neighbor as yourself.”
Close up on the lawyer asking, “But who is my neighbor?”
With the camera still on the lawyer, the rabbi begins to speak,
“Let me tell you a story about a man who fell victim to robbers
who left him half-dead on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho…”

The camera pulls back and pans the listening crowd
where the priest and the rabbi hesitantly steal a glance at each other
and slowly make their way to the temple doors
lest they be late for the service…

The camera finds the rabbi who finishes his story with another question:
“Which of these was neighbor to the robbers’ victim?”
Unable to get the word “Samaritan” out of his mouth, the lawyer says,
“Well, the one, the who treated him with mercy.”
The rabbi says, simply, “Go and do likewise.”

The film ends with an overhead shot
showing some in the crowd going into the temple
and others setting out for home
on the road that leads from Jerusalem to Jericho…


Are we still wondering, "But who is my neighbor?"
If Jesus' answer isn't clear enough,
theologian and pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer,
who was arrested, imprisoned and executed by the Gestapo,
put an even finer point on it when he wrote:

“Neighborliness is not a quality in other people,
it is simply their claim on us.
We have literally no time to sit down and ask ourselves
whether so-and-so is our neighbor or not.
We must get into action and obey;
we must behave like a neighbor to all.”

Countless might be the people you and I came upon this past week,
neighbors, friends or strangers
- all of them neighbors in need of help we might have offered
- but did not.
We were too busy; we were afraid -- afraid of what others might think;
we were on our way to something more important;
we second-guessed the situation, crossed the road and moved on.

The rabbi in my screenplay, Jesus,
never fails to stop along your path and mind
to cleanse and bandage our wounds and care for us.

For our sakes, he, too, was mugged, wounded and left to die.
And no one came to his aid.

We’ve gathered in thanksgiving, grateful for his love for us
and come to be fed with Bread of his life and Blood of his mercy,
that we might be strong enough to recognize our neighbor
wherever we might meet her, wherever we might meet him -
and stop to offer our help.

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  1. I just listened to your homily since I went to 8am and missed you.. I love the fact that I can hear your voice deliver the homily. It's much better than reading it and I feel like I am there with youand our HFP community

    Thanks for posting this audio of the homily.

  2. Great rendition of this parable! Thank you!

    What your explanation of the priest and Levite makes me wonder is, What is it in my life, rules and regulations, activities, that make me act like these two men?

    Like the gypsy woman begging outside the church yesterday and begging for money. Gypsies have a bad reputation when it comes to organized begging... So I did not give anything to her...

    Jesus was this woman and I did not trust her...

    I used to think that the Good Samaritan was was a morality play, relevant of course, but only remotely.

    I now see it in my life too often...

    Thanks again.


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and PRAY before you think!