Reflection for the 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C)
Rev. Fr. Bonnie Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.
A Czech proverb says, “a good neighbor increases the value of your property.” It may not be wrong to read reverse: “a bad neighbor devalues your property.” So, we could be as good or as bad as our neighborhood. However, a good neighborhood is a collective enterprise. When everyone is a good neighbor, a good neighborhood is born.
The word neighbor comes from the Old English word “nēahgebūr,” meanings a “near-dweller”, meaning someone who lives very close. Life runs in neighborhoods. Tell me anyone who does not have a neighbor. I will show you an Island. However, even the Islands have neighbors.
The Gospel Reading today (Luke 10:25-37) tells us the famous story of the Good Samaritan, which emerged from Jesus’ response to a scholar who came to put him to the test. The scholar wanted to know what he must do to gain eternal life. Answering, Jesus brought in the concept of the love of God and neighbor. Responding, the scholar asked, “who is my neighbor?” And Jesus responded with the Good Samaritan story.
The Good Samaritan: The Story and the Message
Jesus tells us in the narrative that a man fell victim to robbers on his way from Jerusalem to Jericho. We do not have the man’s name or the details of his mission in Jerusalem (religious or commercial). Nevertheless, he had some valuables that were stolen after a brutal attack.
The man was lying helpless and hopeless along the way when a priest showed up on that way but seeing the man; he took the opposite route. This pattern was repeated by a Levite, supposed to be a religious acolyte to the priest.
Help finally came from a Samaritan who came to him, had compassion at the sight of his situation, and treated his wound with oil and wine. He took a step further by taking the man to an inn and paid for his resuscitation with the promise of paying for any extra expense.
The nameless victim represents every one of us traveling through the road of life. Recall that this man was alone and had possessions. There is always a limit to how our material possessions can help us. In the journey of life, we need God, not things.
The robbers represent the devil, whose mission is to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10a); in fact, our Lord Jesus Christ says that the devil is a thief from the beginning (John 8:44). Notice that the man was stripped of everything and was left half-dead; the devil won’t spare you if he gets the opportunity (Eph. 4:27).
The priest and Levite represent the “passer-by” neighbors who are never available in times of need, neighbors by name, not by action. What if the man was healthy and wealthy, riding on his horse? Would these religious neighbors stop to greet him with some bit of enthusiasm? I believe so!
The last but not the least person in the narrative is the Samaritan, whose actions would add “Good” to his name. He showed up for the victim when everyone else failed. He came with compassion and was ready with the arsenals for healing. He bandages the wounds and takes the man to a paid room and board.
Discovering The Good Neighbor Within
Our Lord Jesus Christ ended the narrative by asking the scholar to indicate who proved to be a neighbor among the three persons, and he accurately answered that it was the Good Samaritan.
Often the reflection on the Good Samaritan ends with the good thing he did and the failure of the priest and the Levite, but we often fail to explore the hearts of the characters.
In life, you cannot give what you don’t have. Talking about being a good neighbor, you are your first neighbor. In order words, neighborliness starts from within you. Whatever you give is indicative of what you have within you.
We know people by their actions, not their words. The Priest seeing the wounded traveler, passed by the opposite side. The Levite copying the bad example of his religious leader also passed by the opposite side. However, coming to the Samaritan, we notice something different from the others. First, he was moved with compassion at the sight of the wounded man.
Recall that compassion was a recurrent disposition of our Lord Jesus Christ. He had compassion for the widow who lost her only child and raised him to life (Luke 7:11-17). He had compassion for the crowd (John 14:14; Matt.9:36), and he wept at the graveside of Lazarus (John 11:35).
Moving Forward: Being the Compassionate Neighbor
The Good neighbor is the compassionate neighbor. It takes compassion to stop on your way to help the helpless, just as it takes dispassion to pass by the opposite side of the road when a neighbor needs help.
It will be easy to blame the priest and the Levite for their dispassionate attitude, but we still repeat their acts in various ways in our day and age. How many of your neighbors do you know personally?
Today we live in neighborhoods, but we lack brotherhood. We travel miles away to meet and interact with people but never exchange a kind word with the next-door neighbor. The only thing we can remember about our neighbors is their noisy dog or their laud kids.
Let’s take up reaching out to at least one neighbor today. Knock on their door and say hello I am a neighbor; I care to know how you are doing today. Do not pass by the opposite side like the priest and the Levite.
God bless you.