Deacon Tony reflects: Serve one another

I have mentioned previously of the inner turmoil I go through when I see people begging in the streets knowing that I cannot help everyone. Also the times when I pass someone without acknowledging them because I am in a rush or perhaps don’t stop; fearing for my own safety. The times I have done this I am like the priest and the Levite in the parable today, who for a reason known only to themselves, did not stop. We are called to be like the Samaritan in the parable and not the priest or the Levite.

Jesus uses this parable to tackle directly, the lawyer who is trying to disconcert Him. Asked about heavenly things, Jesus asks the lawyer what the law says. Being a lawyer, he is able to state what it says in the books. If we were watching some legal drama in a film or on tv we then see the lawyer try to set a trap for Jesus; as he cross-examines Him. The lawyer asks, ‘And who is my neighbour?’ Jesus then teaches us all with probably one of the most famous parables known.

In this parable we have four characters, when we hear this we normally would put ourselves in the parts of the priest, the Levite or the Samaritan; very few of us would think of ourselves being the person who needs help. But I would suggest that we need to look at all four characters and see what or who they represent to us.

The priest and the Levite symbolise people who know the law; they know it in the text written down for centuries, but either because they are too busy, or they are afraid for their own safety or because they do not want the inconvenience of being made ritually unclean if the victim happened to be dead; they walk on by on the other side of the road. Their compliance with the law looks towards themselves as opposed to how they could help a fellow traveller. Perhaps nowadays we would say they obeyed the letter of the law but ignored the Spirit of the law.

The Samaritan, to the Jews was an outcast, someone who would have known the law of God passed down from Moses and then several generations, but he understood the meaning behind the law; if we look at the first reading this is described as the law which ‘is very near to you, it is in your mouth and in your heart for your observance.’ This is an inner law, which is given to everyone, believers and non-believers; it is human decency and we are all born with it, but unless it is nurtured and encouraged then we all have the capacity to lose it and the enemy feeds our selfish tendencies; which like a weed in the fields, destroys our capacity to bear fruit. The Samaritan, took pity on the stranger, helped him, provided for him, tended his wounds and brought an end to him being alone.

The fourth character in the parable is the injured man, left exposed by the side of the road. Notice how he is heading downwards away from the Holy City, we usually think of travelling downhill being easier, an easier route, just like the enemy tells us about sin. This man represents humanity, when we move away from God, we are more at risk of disaster striking us. When we take the easy way, it often can leave us feeling empty and sad, unfulfilled. When we try to do things under our own power the gifts and talents we have appear to be more difficult to use, almost as if we never had them.

Recently we had 43 young people from Holy Ghost Parish confirmed by Bishop Philip at the Cathedral. During their preparation we asked them what they would like to do going forward within the Parish. Many of the activities they mentioned were about enhancing our Liturgy with music, reading at Mass and some want to serve at Mass. Others mentioned social activities, like cooking together, or getting together on a regular basis to meet socially. For a Parish to flourish we need people of all ages to be able to use their gifts to love God and love our neighbours as ourselves. Can I encourage everyone to listen out for the offers from these young people? Support them! Encourage them! There are so many roads which go downwards away from Church; we need to encourage every member of our Parish Family to stay connected to the Church, to stay close, to see they are valued and respected as well as loved by us.

Today’s Gospel is a reminder for all of us that we are not just to obey the written laws, but we are to try and understand the spirit of the law. The Spirit which urges each of us to look out for one another; to help one another, to accompany one another, to serve one another.

This is Jesus’ call to love. We have a choice, we can walk on by, or we can stop and lend a hand, taking pity on the one in need. That way we will be obeying Jesus’ instruction to ‘Go, and do the same yourself.

Further Reading

The Catechism of the Catholic Church

CCC 299, 381: man created in the image of God; the first-born
CCC 1931-1933: viewing neighbour as another self
CCC 2447: corporal works of mercy
CCC 1465: the priest as Good Samaritan in the sacrament of Penance
CCC 203, 291, 331, 703: the Word and creation, visible and invisible

Please keep in your prayers this week

  • The Ukrainian and Russian people, may they be able to live in peace.
  • Those who are sick, those recovering from surgery, those who are dying, the recently deceased and those who mourn.
  • The Year of the Eucharist, that this will lead to a fresh outpouring of love by the people of God for the Body and Blood of Christ.
  • Fr Chris Whelan who is sick and Fr John & Fr Dominic who are having to make changes to support St Joseph’s at this time.
  • For all the families who have started Baptism Preparation this week at St Bede’s