The Good Samaritan on your street

The Good Samaritan by VanGogh

Homily for the Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
(Scriptures for today's Mass)

Audio for homily

It’s a sad and tragic reality
that stories of people beaten, shot and left-for-dead on the roadside
are not uncommon in the news today.
We might hope that 2,000 years after Jesus told this story
we would have grown beyond such violence - but that’s not the case.
In fact, it’s possible that things have gotten worse.

Still, most of us will never encounter such a scene personally
– we’ll see it in the news.
Our opportunities to be good Samaritans will be on a smaller scale –
though that in no way excuses us from loving our neighbor
just as Jesus describes here.
We all know this story very well –
perhaps so well that we don’t listen to it carefully.
So, a quick review might be in order.
1) Someone’s in trouble and needs help.
2) Precisely those you ought to be able to count on to provide that help
(the priest and the Levite) fail, miserably, to do what they should.
3) The person least expected to provide assistance
(remember that Jews and Samaritans hated each other)                       
- he stops what he’s doing (interrupts his trip to Jericho)
and inserts himself personally in the situation,
at the cost of his own convenience
- he does more than call 911: he provides immediate assistance
and gets the wounded man settled at the inn, and on his tab
- and note that the Samaritan obligates himself to the man’s future: he’ll need to stop on his return trip and pay the balance on his bill.
And this is the story Jesus tells to illustrate what it means
“to love our neighbor as ourselves…”
Now, I’m going to ask some questions I hope might help us move
from the generic “neighbor” to the names of real people in our lives.
substitute the names of real people we know in our own lives
for the generic word, “neighbor.”
I know some particular names came to my mind as I wrote this homily.

So, what are the roads I travel every day?
- the pathways from room to room in my own home
- the streets and highways connecting me to family, near and far
- the sidewalks that line my own neighborhood
- the corridors and hallways of the place where I work
- the aisles at the supermarket or here, where we pray
Along those paths, whose suffering do I pass by?
whose pain have I grown to ignore? 
whose care do I presume to be someone else’s responsibility?
How have I learned to insulate myself from the suffering
of people I live with, in my own home?  people I work with? 
people in my own town, or neighborhood or parish
or in my extended family?

Is it the cost, the time, the personal inconvenience that keeps me
from stopping on my way, reaching out
and taking on the burdens others carry?
Am I concerned that helping now might obligate me
beyond the present moment? 
Those are my questions. 
Any names come to mind?

Now, just to level the playing field here:
I agree that if you see someone beaten up on the side of the road,
calling 911 is probably the first good Samaritan deed you should do.
But what about the times when the injury, the hurt,
is much more subtle and closer to home or to work?
What about the times when my intervention, your intervention,
might be just the “911” that someone else needs?

How about the situations in my daily life where I know
that not just a couple of people, but lots of people                       
are walking by someone close to me who needs help?

Someone in need of a kind word?  in need of a friendly gesture?
in need of a listening ear?  a helping hand?
in need of the time it takes to share a cup of coffee?

To paraphrase the words we heard in Deuteronomy today:
            If only you would heed the voice of the Lord…
               with all your heart and soul…
            For the command, the opportunity to love your neighbor
               is not mysterious or remote.
            It’s not up in the sky or across the sea.
            It’s something very near to you, within your reach, in your heart.
            You have only to carry it out.

I hope as you listened to my questions
the names of some people in your life
came to your mind, and to your heart:
the names of people on the paths and streets of the week ahead of you;
the names of people who pass by you all the time;
people you and I pass by;
the names of people within our reach;
the names of people waiting for us to stop by their side
and in any way we can
offer a healing word, a healing touch
and the pledge to be there for them again, another day.

Though he was a Jew, the greatest good Samaritan of all was Jesus.
He not only stoopped to rescue and save us from the death of sin,
he carries us on his back and brings us to this altar,
the table where he nourishes us until he comes back again
to take us home with him to heaven.

Somewhere along the roads you and I travel this week
we’ll come across people who need our help.
Pray with me that we’ll reach out with the same mercy
with which Jesus reaches out to each of us.


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  1. there is no sound for it

  2. The audio is working, Bryan, but if you're trying to play it on a mobile device, it might not work there. Try a laptop or desktop computer.


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