Luke 10:25-37
The Good Samaritan
by Rev. Joseph M. Rampino
Reprinted with permission of "The Arlington Catholic Herald"

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Written to explain that
Christ came to save everyone.

There was a scholar of the law who stood up to test Jesus 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?"  Jesus replied, "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 famous parable of the Good Samaritan might rank among the best-known passages of the Gospels, but remains frequently misunderstood. Even as children, we may have learned this parable as an injunction not to judge, since the normally shunned Samaritan shows the highest moral quality in the story, and to go out of our way to help our neighbor, no matter what their situation might be. While these are fine lessons, our understanding of the parable is woefully inadequate if it goes no further. In order to enter the depths of what Christ is telling us, we have to remember that all of the Lordís parables are more about him than about us. The Gospels describe him before they describe a certain moral path. So then, we may look at the Good Samaritan parable as a portrait of Jesus.

First, we consider what precedes the parable. Christ elicits from the scholar of the law the central command given to Israel, to ďlove the Lord Your God with all your heart.Ē Christ as the eternal Son, turned entirely toward the Father at all times in an act of perfect and total love, fulfills this command perfectly. We could even say that this command expresses who he really is. To follow that command, loving God with everything, is to share deeply and intimately in the life of Christ, not just here on earth, but forever, even in the secret of heaven. The parable in question only follows when the scholar of the law, seeking to better his standing out of pride, tries to ask a subtle question, and misses the point entirely.

The parable of the Good Samaritan answers the scholarís diversion by bringing attention back to the heart of the matter: the love present in the heart of the Son. The titular Samaritan, the one who cares for the wounded man when neither the priest nor the Levite will, represents Jesus, who comes to the aid of wounded humanity, represented by the man beaten by robbers. Jesus, like the Samaritan, arrives among his own people as a stranger, unrecognized and unappreciated; in the words of Johnís Gospel, ďhe came to those who were his own in the world, and his own received him not.Ē Yet, though rejected, he still cares for wounded humanity, cleaning and soothing its wounds, carrying it on his own animal, representing Christís human nature, and leaving it at the inn, the image of the church, until it should fully recover. The scholar of the law sought to justify himself, missing the opportunity to understand and share the Sonís relationship with the Father, but that same eternal Son, Jesus, offers him a great promise in the form of a parable: though our wounds might not allow us sinful people to see the beauty of Godís life, our Savior will tend to us until we are able to both see and share in that perfect life.

So then, this famous parable is not merely a lesson about how we are to act in this world and among each other. It is a portrait of our Savior, a promise of his love and care for us, and a call to join him in the life that consists of loving God with all that we are. We can gain from it, then, not only the resolution to do right by our neighbor, but love for him who created and redeemed us, the comfort of knowing that he provides everything necessary for our spiritual healing, and the joyful desire to experience what he now possesses at the right hand of the Father.