Today's Gospel reading from the Gospel of Saint Luke gives us the story of the legal scholar who questioned Jesus as to what he must do to attain eternal life. Jesus answers by having him recite the law, to which he says:
You shall love the Lord, your God,Jesus, then, tells him that he has correctly recited the law, and that by faithfully following these commands he "will live." But, the man wishes to justify himself (his own knowledge of the law or his own life), so he further questions Jesus, asking "And who is my neighbor?"
with all your heart,
with all your being,
with all your strength,
and with all your mind,
and your neighbor as yourself.
In reply, Jesus gives us this parable of the good Samaritan:
"A man fell victim to robbersJesus then poses this question to his scholarly interlocutor:
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,When the man acknowledges that the good Samaritan, who helped the injured man, was the neighbor because he treated the injured man with mercy, Christ tells him: "Go and do likewise."
was neighbor to the robbers' victim?"
That is, indeed, the command of Christ to all of us, to go and do likewise. As our Lord has poured out his mercy on us with such generosity, we are to live in imitation of that mercy, to live in imitation of Christ who gave Himself entirely for our salvation.
Notice too that Christ rephrased the scholar's question: the scholar asked: "Who is my neighbor?" But, in response to the scholar, at the end of the parable, Christ asks the scholar which of the three--priest, Levite, or Samaritan--was neighbor to the wounded man? While the scholar's question was self-centered--whom must I love--Christ's question in return is selfless--what is a neighbor called to do? The scholar's question, love as Christ did.
If I say that I am a Christian, then I am laying claim to a life that is being lived in imitation of Christ. I cannot say that; I have no right to lay claim to the statement that my life truly is lived in imitation of Christ, wretched sinner than I am. But, I do lay claim to this: I try to live in imitation of Christ and, though often tripped up by my own failings, I continue to try to imitate Christ. For I am not a Christian, in the truest sense, I am attempting to achieve Christianity out of love for our Lord.
In is recent encyclical, Deus Caritas Est, Pope Benedict XVI describes the parable of the good Samaritan these terms:
The parable of the Good Samaritan offers two particularly important clarifications. Until that time, the concept of “neighbor” was understood as referring essentially to one’s countrymen and to foreigners who had settled in the land of Israel; in other words, to the closely-knit community of a single country or people. This limit is now abolished. Anyone who needs me, and whom I can help, is my neighbor. The concept of “neighbor” is now universalized, yet it remains concrete. Despite being extended to all mankind, it is not reduced to a generic, abstract and undemanding expression of love, but calls for my own practical commitment here and now.
The Church has the duty to interpret ever anew this relationship between near and far with regard to the actual daily life of her members. Lastly, we should especially mention the great parable of the Last Judgment (cf. Matthew 25:31-46), in which love becomes the criterion for the definitive decision about a human life's worth or lack thereof. Jesus identifies himself with those in need, with the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick and those in prison. "As you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me" (Matthew 25:40). Love of God and love of neighbor have become one: In the least of the brethren we find Jesus himself, and in Jesus we find God.