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Who is my Neighbor?
A Reflection on the Parable of the Good Samaritan
in Light of the Shootings this Week
July 10, 2016
Gospel Lk 10:25-37
There was a scholar of the law who stood up to test him and said,
“Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
Jesus said to him, “What is written in the law?
How do you read it?”
He said in reply,
“You shall love the Lord, your God,
with all your heart,
with all your being,
with all your strength,
and with all your mind,
and your neighbor as yourself.”
He replied to him, “You have answered correctly;
do this and you will live.”
But because he wished to justify himself, he said to Jesus,
“And who is my neighbor?”
“A man fell victim to robbers
as he went down from Jerusalem to Jericho.
They stripped and beat him and went off leaving him half-dead.
A priest happened to be going down that road,
but when he saw him, he passed by on the opposite side.
Likewise a Levite came to the place,
and when he saw him, he passed by on the opposite side.
But a Samaritan traveler who came upon him
was moved with compassion at the sight.
He approached the victim,
poured oil and wine over his wounds and bandaged them.
Then he lifted him up on his own animal,
took him to an inn, and cared for him.
The next day he took out two silver coins
and gave them to the innkeeper with the instruction,
‘Take care of him.
If you spend more than what I have given you,
I shall repay you on my way back.’
Which of these three, in your opinion,
was neighbor to the robbers’ victim?”
He answered, “The one who treated him with mercy.”
Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”
The scholar of the law in today’s gospel asks, “Who is my neighbor?” As we reflect on the events of the past week, we would do well to consider this question also. Who is my neighbor? Who is important to me? Who do I care about? Or who is the foreigner? Who is less important? Who can I safely ignore? Who is not worthy of my love, my compassion, or even my attention?
Is my neighbor:
- the black victims of the police shooting?
- the protesters who peacefully exercised their first amendment rights?
- the police officers who defended and protected the demonstrators?
- or the sniper and the inexperienced patrolmen who killed?
Jesus says yes! Yes to all of them. In every conflict there are heroes and villains. Those we agree with and those we disagree with. We like to think that we are the heroes in our own stories. In our lives, too, we all have friends and enemies, and even those people we just can’t stand. Jesus says love them anyway. Pray for those who persecute you, stand up for the rights of the marginalized and abused.
Bigotry is not a new concept. This gospel passage challenges the bigotry of Jesus’ time as well. Between 740 and 722 BC, Assyria conquered and sent into exile the Northern Kingdom of Israel. During the exile, the Israelites began to marry and have children with the Assyrians, so within a few generations there were no longer “pure-blood” Israelites. Then, 200 years later, from 598 to 586 BC, the Southern Kingdom of Judah was conquered by Babylon, and also led into exile. The Judahites, however, remained separate from the Babylonians, so their descendants were rightly called Jews (from Judah). When the exiles ended, the descendants of the Northern Kingdom returned to the area known as Samaria, and the Jews returned to Judea. Thus was bigotry born: the Jews saw the Samaritans as inferior, and the Samaritans resented them for it. It was not much different than what we experience today.
Because of this, 500 years later, when Jesus used a Samaritan as the hero of the story, it shocked his Jewish listeners. Furthermore, to show the priest and the Levite as the “bad guys” was also shocking. They were supposed to be holy, blessed by God. There is some justification for their avoidance of the dying man; as we know, dead bodies carry disease that can be transferred from person to person, and religious leaders were especially careful to not contaminate themselves, so that they didn’t accidentally start a plague or pestilence in the community. However, they didn’t even bother to check to see if the injured man was dead or alive! They were too concerned about their own “purity” to exercise a small amount of compassion for a fellow traveler.
How many times do we make selfish choices? How often do we think, “That’s someone else’s problem”? Are we the ones who say, “That’s a job for Congress, the Police Chief, or even the Pastor”? How many people have to die, or be pushed aside, until we speak out? Where is the line between the people I am willing to defend and the people I am willing to sacrifice? It shouldn’t matter if they are Republicans or Democrats, white, black, or brown, rich or poor. As baptized Christians, Jesus calls US to speak for those who have no voice; he calls US to defend the weak; he calls US to strive for change in our families, in our communities, and in the world.
There are too many voices in the world pointing out differences and deepening divisions in our society. What we need is more people striving for healing and unity. “Who is my neighbor?” Victim or perpetrator, everyone in the world has a right to life, justice, and dignity, and each of us has a responsibility to provide them.
Our Pastoral Council together with Fr. Terry have recently announced our new Parish Vision:
Knowing, Living, and Sharing our Faith, united in the Love of Christ
A Charlie Brown Christmas?
Fifty years ago, a little boy named Charlie Brown asked, “What is the true meaning of Christmas?” In December of 1965, The United States was embroiled in a war that she couldn’t win; a new pope had recently challenged the status quo for the Catholic Church, bringing freshness and hope; and the latest toy crazes were more important than the other people in the stores. Doesn’t sound too different from today, does it?
The fact is, life doesn’t change that much. We are still complaining about the government, our paychecks, and, if you’re older “the state of the world today” or, if you’re younger, “my parents don’t understand me.” We are still asking, like Charlie Brown, “What is the true meaning of Christmas?” Is racking up debt for gifts, enduring endless hours of cooking for 15 minutes of eating, and embarrassing ourselves because of too much eggnog all there is? Or is there something more?
Where do we get an answer? From Lucy and her nickel’s worth of psychiatric advice? Therapy is a good tool, but it doesn’t have all the answers and it certainly can’t solve our problem in 2 minutes of platitudes. Does the answer come in the form of innovative and increasingly bizarre ways to interpret tradition, so that “naturally curly hair” can take over the spotlight, or each player on the stage is dancing to his own drumbeat, with no coordination or theme? No!
The answer, not surprisingly, comes from Charlie’s best friend, Linus Van Pelt. A personal friend is more effective than any screaming on the internet, or even a homily at Midnight Mass. Linus reminds Charlie, and each of us, that the true meaning of Christmas is “Glory to God in the Highest and on earth peace, good will toward men,” quoting the same Gospel passage we read tonight.
As a matter of fact, Christmas is all about friendship, and about relationships. Scientists and theologians are always asking the question, “What if?” Several theologians throughout history have asked, “What if Adam and Eve had never sinned? Would the Eternal Son of God have taken on our humanity?” Their conclusion, surprisingly, is “yes.” The Son of God was not content to help us from heaven; he wants to experience what we experience. He took on our human nature so that he could understand us better and so he could live like we do, sharing our joys and sorrows, our strength and weakness. In short, he wants to be our friend.
Jesus Christ took on everything it means to be a human person, except sin. He is a divine being, with both a divine and human nature. He shared our joys and our sorrows, our triumphs and our defeats. Although Linus says, “Of all the Charlie Browns in the world, you are the Charlie Browniest,” we could say, “Of all the humans in the world, Jesus Christ is the human-est.”
Parts of South Carolina, including Charleston and Columbia, continue to recover from historic flooding. As the flood waters recede, the scope of the devastation can only now be assessed. Please consider donating to assist those in need of our help:
Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Charleston
1427 Pickens Street
Columbia, SC 29201
(Please mark your check: “October 2015 Storm”)
Please join people of faith everywhere in praying for all those affected by this disaster.
Saint Mary Magdalene Catholic Preschool is excited to announce our beginning date will be Wednesday August 19! Registration has begun. Please contact the director if interested Please see our preschool page for more information about the program or contact Gina DeGennaro at firstname.lastname@example.org or 678.854.9990. We are looking forward to serving you and becoming one family.
We are looking for donations of Catholic Statues and religious items for our preschool, please contact Gina if you have some you are willing to spare. Also, our preschool is looking to add a volunteer that is computer savvy. If you have time to assist and are creative on the computer, please contact Gina.
Eagle Scout Project In Progress
The beginnings of “operation playground” is currently underway for our preschool! We are blessed that Colin Clayton has chosen to make the perimeter of the playground his Eagle Scout project along with the rubber mulch. We are so excited!
P.S. Check out our new Facebook page at :
On April 25, a devastating magnitude-7.8 earthquake struck Nepal near Kathmandu, also affecting nearby parts of India. Avalanches were reported in the Himalayas, including on Mount Everest.
A CRS team is on the ground in Kathmandu, the capital city and one of the most affected areas, and our local partner Caritas Nepal has started distributing food and shelter. The initial targets of CRS aid will be the thousands in need of shelter. Many buildings were destroyed or damaged in the 7.8 magnitude quake, and continuing aftershocks are causing widespread fear of sleeping inside of even intact buildings. Working with Caritas Nepal, CRS’ initial goal is to help 10,000 families with emergency shelter, blankets, water treatment kits, and hygiene kits. Given the scale of the disaster, the number receiving help is expected to rise as our staff and partners are able to better assess the situation, coordinate our response with other agencies and procure additional supplies.
As this region, including northern India, is known for earthquakes, CRS had prepositioned stocks of emergency aid in nearby Bihar, India. These supplies — temporary shelter kits (tarpaulins, mats, rope), water purification kits and hygiene kits for 2,000 families – are being transported to Nepal for immediate distribution. Teams are also purchasing and transporting other critical relief items from India to transport into Nepal since most markets in Kathmandu remain closed. An additional 3,000 tarpaulins will be flown from a hub in Dubai for distribution within the next couple days. More emergency personnel are on the way. Catholic Relief Services has made an initial commitment of $825,000 to relief efforts in Nepal, a figure that is expected to rise as the needs become clearer. The official death toll is approaching 4,000 – with thousands more injured — but few outlying villages have been reached and widespread destruction, especially in hillside settlements, is feared.
You can donate to this effort in three ways:
Mail: Catholic Relief Services, P.O. Box 17090, Baltimore, MD 21297-0303 (Please write “Nepal Earthquake” on the memo line)
Phone: Call 877-HelpCRS (877-435-7277) to make a credit card donation to CRS over the phone.
The Disciple’s Journey stewardship newsletter will now only be distributed parish wide by email and posted to the Facebook page and website. If you would like to receive a hard copy by mail, contact the parish office.
“Blessed Is Marriage” analyzes the meaning of the Beatitudes and their implications for marriage. “Poverty in spirit, mourning, meekness, mercifulness, purity in heart, peacefulness and righteousness are the loving attitudes that open our heart to God and to one another.”
Program sessions will take place on Wednesday nights from 6:30 – 8:00 in the rectory basement February 25, March 4, March 11, March 18, March 25, and April 15
* Childcare will be available upon request.
Class facilitated by Ken & Lisa Kula.
Cost: $11.00 to cover the cost of the book.
Please register by February 22.
You can register by email or phone/text to – email@example.com or 770-317-0759
Youth Group is still selling Christmas ornaments! For $10 you can have this as a new trimming for your tree! Please contact Toni Egan at: firstname.lastname@example.org and give your name and phone number and she will make sure one is ready for you to pay and pick up at the Masses on December 13 &14. Thank you!