And behold, a lawyer stood up to put Him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the law? How do you read?” And he answered, “You shall 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 your neighbor as yourself.” And He said to him, “You have answered right; do this, and you will live.” But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him, and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was; and when he saw him, he had compassion, and went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; then he set him on his own beast and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ Which of these three, do you think, proved neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed mercy on him.” And Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”
Many of us are familiar with the story of the Good Samaritan. A lawyer challenges Jesus with a question: what does he need to do to inherit eternal life? Jesus responds with a question, asking the man what is his understanding of what he needs to do. The man knows the two great commandments, to love God and to love our neighbor. Jesus compliments the man, he’s well on his way to inheriting eternal life. The man, however, asks Jesus; “Who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:29) Then Jesus tells the story of the Good Samaritan.
A man was beat up and left at the side of the road to die. A priest and a Levite passed him by and didn’t stop. A Samaritan stops by and helps the man, pouring oil and wine on his wounds. He then puts the wounded man on his donkey and takes him to an inn and takes care of him. The next day, the Good Samaritan needs to continue on his journey so he gives the innkeeper money in order to continue caring for the wounded man.
The most apparent lesson of this parable is that our neighbor is everyone, even our enemies, because the man who had been beaten and robbed was Jewish. The priest and Levite were leaders in his temple and should have been the first to run to his aid. It was the Samaritan, a sworn enemy of the Jews, who stopped to render help to this man.
There is other symbolism in this parable. The oil and wine used to heal the wounds of the man who had been robbed represent Holy Unction and Holy Communion, the two sacraments in our Church that we use for healing. The inn represents the Church. This is where we are to go when we are hurt and wounded by the world. The innkeeper is the priest, the one who was administering the inn. And the two denarii represent our stewardship. It is stewardship offered to the church that allows the church to care for those who are spiritually wounded.
The Good Samaritan might actually be called “the good steward,” because he embodied the three branches of stewardship—he offered his time, his talent, and his treasure to see that a wounded man could be healed. He offered his time, by spending a day and a night with a wounded man. He offered his talent because he had some knowledge of binding up wounds. And he offered his treasure. When he couldn’t give of his time, when the time had come where he needed to leave the inn, he still provided the means for the man to be healed, by offering two denarii to the innkeeper.
There is still more that we can take away from this chapter. We don’t usually consider this story from the perspective of the man who had been beaten and robbed. Yet, when we consider which person in the story we most relate to, for many of us it is that man on the side of the road. We feel beaten down by the world, wounded in our souls, anxious and uncertain, and overall uncomfortable. Hopefully, we don’t feel like this every day. However, all of us feel like this on some days. We sit at the roadside, hoping for some help. The “priest” and “Levite” come along and our hopes increase—these are “our people” we think. And then we are crushed when they pass us by. Along comes the “Samaritan,” our “enemy”—maybe it’s the person who has wronged us, or the unpopular/uncool person, or the person whose beliefs are a little different than ours. We now have some mixed feelings. We need help. But from this person?!
Think about how that man on the side of the road felt when the Samaritan helped him. Was his pride wounded because people passed him by and he was now being treated by his enemy? Was he angry and resentful, still hating the man who was helping him? Was his heart melting, his hate giving way to love and appreciation? When it was all over and he was healed, did he look at Samaritans differently? Did he encourage his family and friends to look at them differently? The Bible story does not answer these questions for us. These questions, however, come up in our own stories.
When we need help, are we too proud to ask for help? And when help comes from a traditionally unwanted source, do we accept it, or refuse it? Are our hearts changed towards those who are helpful, even if before we didn’t like them? Part of what wounds are souls are not only the times we get kicked to the curb, but the other things that happen—how we deal with “our people” when they ignore us, how we deal other our “enemies” when they actually help us.
There are also people who refuse to accept help. They are independent, or self-reliant, or too proud to accept help when it is offered. Some may not even see that they need help or that others are capable and willing to help. Imagine the wounded man, bloody and seriously ill, telling the Samaritan, “no thanks, I don’t want your help.” Yet, there are probably people who would do that. They will still see the Samaritan either as their enemy, or they will stubbornly insist on doing it by themselves.
There is one other category that needs to be mentioned, those who will not accept the help of God. There are those who may see God as the enemy. They won’t reach out to God or to the Church because they have been wounded by spiritual disappointment. This Gospel passage not only has a message to help our wounded neighbors. It also has a message to those wounded—to accept help from God and even from our enemies.
We all get turns as the priest and Levite, too. We all know people who need help, “our own people”, our family, and our friends. How often do we pass people by, even the people we like?
If we are really to love our neighbor as ourselves, we have to see everyone as our neighbor. The definition of neighbor is “the one who lives next to us.” When we are at home, the neighbor is the person in the house or the apartment next door. However, at all times, our neighbor is whoever is in closest proximity to us. It may be the person who lives next door when we are at home. It is the person at the desk next to us at work, the person in the car next to us on the road, the person next to us in the pew at church. Our neighbor at any given moment might be our best friend or our biggest enemy. Our neighbor may be the person who needs help, or the person from whom we need help.
The healing of soul and body is aided in large part by how we relate to each other as neighbors. When we are wounded, we are aided in being able to call on others for help and trusting they will come to our aid and help us. And when we are wounded, we must put away stubborn pride and accept the needed healing, even if it isn’t convenient or being offered by a friend. When we come upon someone who is wounded, we become an aid in their process of healing by being a good neighbor, or steward, to them. This might involve our time, our talent, or even our treasure, just as it did for the Good Samaritan. However, what it requires first are eyes to are able to see those who are in need, and a heart that pushes us to run toward them, whomever they may be.
The Physician and Help of the suffering, the Redeemer and Savior of the sick, Master and Lord of all, grant healing to Your ailing servants; have compassion and mercy, on those, who have grievously sinned, and deliver them, O Christ, from their iniquities, that they may glorify Your Divine power. (Kathisma)
Be a good neighbor to those in need. Learn to accept kindness from others.