The Good Samaritan and Living Mercifully

User’s Guide to Sunday, July 14

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Sunday, July 14, is the 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C). Mass readings: Deuteronomy 30:10-14; Psalm 69:14, 17, 30-31, 33-34, 36, 37; Colossians 1:15-20; Luke 10:25-37.

Today’s readings speak of the nature of God’s law and our salvation.

In the first reading from Deuteronomy, Moses tells the People of God that the law they received is not some great puzzle, but, rather, is part of who they are. They need not find intermediary scholars or interpreters to unpack the commandments. They are “already in your mouths and in your hearts,” he says. All they — and we — need to do is live those commandments.

In St. Paul’s Letter to the Colossians, we find that the commandments are more than mere words on tablets. St. Paul tells us that Christ Jesus is the very expression of God. He was present at the beginning of time. “All things were created through him and for him,” he writes. It is through and by Jesus that we shall be reconciled to God.

Therefore, from these two first readings, we learn that living the commandments in authenticity is within our grasp so long as we are in relationship with Jesus, who is the very Word of God. So it is that we arrive at St. Luke’s Gospel and the famous story of the Good Samaritan.

The scene begins with a question from a scholar of the law, an interpreter of the very commandments Moses spoke of in the first reading. He is testing Jesus and so asks what is necessary for eternal life. Our Lord tosses the question back at the lawyer, who answers essentially with the duologue — the two great laws that summarize the Ten Commandments: to love God above all else and to love neighbor as oneself. Jesus agrees, but the lawyer is not done. To test Jesus further, he asks, “And who is my neighbor?”

Jesus then tells the story of the Good Samaritan. This stranger saves the life of a Jewish man set upon by robbers and left to die. Before this intercession, a Jewish priest and a Levite saw the injured man and not only ignored his plight, but actually “passed by on the opposite side” of the road. The implication is that these keepers of the Law were afraid of making themselves unclean and so sought some distance from their fellow Jew. The Samaritan, on the other hand, despite belonging to a race despised by the Jews, “was moved with compassion at the sight.” He cared for the man and sacrificed a great deal in order to be sure this stranger lived.

Jesus asks, then: Who was “neighbor to the robbers’ victim”? The lawyer could not bring himself to say the name “Samaritan,” but only “the one who treated him with mercy.”

Like Moses, Jesus shows us that living the commandments in authenticity is not complicated. It is challenging, but not complicated. This is important to remember, as we sometimes seek to impose upon ourselves or others our own complicated interpretations of God’s law. Rather, loving those seemingly dead in sin may mean being moved by compassion to walk with them in relationship instead of distancing ourselves to maintain purity.

This Sunday the Psalmist sings that “your words, Lord, are Spirit and life.” Let us allow his word to challenge us toward mercy for ourselves and for others so that we might enjoy eternal life with God and our neighbors.

Omar Gutierrez is a permanent deacon in the Archdiocese of Omaha, Nebraska. 

He is an instructor with Holy Family School of Faith in Omaha.

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