The theme for our morning’s meditation is “Who is my neighbour?”
When we think of the word ‘neighbour’, what comes to our mind is the picture of those who are living near our homes. We believe that a neighbour is somebody whom we know because they live in proximity of our homes. So normally, we think of those living in our colony or in our street or the ones on either side of our home.
However, Jesus gives a completely new and radical meaning for the word ‘neighbour’. He redefines the term to indicate the willingness to be of help to someone who is in need.
In the Gospel reading, Luke records for us an incident where an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. He asked Jesus, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus asked him about what the law says. He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’” Jesus said that he had answered correctly and that if he practiced that, he would have eternal life. However, the expert in the law wanted to justify himself and asked Jesus another question, “Who is my neighbour?”
In order to answer the man’s question Jesus narrates a story about a man going down from Jerusalem to Jericho. On the way, he was attacked by robbers and they stripped him off his clothes, beat him and went away leaving him half dead. The first passer-by was a priest who saw the man desperately needing help, but he moved to the other side of the road and carried on with his journey. The priest probably said a prayer for him but he was more concerned that he would become ceremonially unclean. He could be ritually impure if he came in contact with a corpse or with a non-Jew. And so, he moves on.
The second passer-by was a Levite. This was a tribe from which priests were chosen. He too passed by on the other side without helping the man.
Finally, a Samaritan comes along. The Samaritans were looked down by the Jews as they thought they were an impure race. However, it is this man who is moved with compassion and gets down from his donkey, bandages his wounds, pouring oil and wine and takes him to an inn asking them to take care of him. He pays the initial amount and tells the inn-keeper to take care of him and that he would pay any extra charges on his way back.
Jesus then asked the expert as to who acted as a neighbour to the injured man. The expert replied the one who helped him, the one who had mercy on him. Jesus says, “Go and do likewise.”
Through the parable Jesus shows that we are called to become a neighbour to anyone in need. The passage shows that any attempt of self-justification is doomed to failure. The standard is too high.
Eternal life cannot be earned. Yet the parable holds out an ethical standard we must strive for. The passage also makes a statement about salvation. Salvation comes to the wounded man in the form of a costly demonstration of unexpected love.
This is what Jesus has done for us. He comes in an unexpected way to bind up the wounds of the suffering as the unique agent of God’s costly demonstration of unexpected love.
God calls us this morning to go out of our way and be willing to become a neighbour to anybody in need. We are all very good in being spectators when an accident takes place.
We make WhatsApp videos and send it to everybody but we do not help the person who is injured. We saw this last week when a young girl was murdered in broad day light in Bhogal. In spite of her screaming for help, very few were willing to engage in that situation.
May God motivate us to be neighbours to anyone who is in need.