The Good Samaritan, John Adam Houston (1812–1884), c. 1845; Royal Scottish Academy of Art and Architecture

Fr Neil’s homily on the Fourth Sunday after Trinity, 10 July 2022

Go and do likewise.¹

The Lord has revealed his commandments so that we might know him and be directed to the way of eternal life — that life in union with him.

His law of life is written into the fabric of creation and evident in the Natural law. Our consciences, fallen as we are, still illuminate the actions of humanity that are expressed in universally-recognised moral codes. Killing, stealing, adultery, envy and disrespect to others never lead to a good place. Each internally corrupts the individual and damages society as a whole. Any society that forgets God also ends up divisive, hard, cruel, merciless and where the value of life is diminished. We have seen enough societies which have tried for a Godless system for us to know the outcome.

There is a simplicity about the law of the Lord that allows it to be summarised by the words of the lawyer in the gospel. Love God with all that you are and your neighbour as yourself.² It’s not rocket science, but its profound simplicity was too much for this sophisticated lawyer — its demands too great. He wanted a loophole, some wriggle room that would give him the excuse he wanted not to apply the law universally. His underlying assumption was that ‘my neighbour’ is limited to Jews and proselytes, in which case he could go on despising the pagans, Samaritans and Romans.

Christ unveils the deeper divine truth of the fulfilment of the law in the telling of the story of the Good Samaritan. He then invites the lawyer to answer his own question ‘who is my neighbour?’ The lawyer cannot even bring himself to say “the Samaritan” and answers, “the one who showed mercy on him.”¹ Christ presses the point home by saying “go and do likewise!” In other words, be the Samaritan!

I am sure we have all played the game with this very familiar story where we have identified with one or other of the characters. While we absolutely don’t like to identify with the priest or Levite, who walk by on the other side, let’s be honest: we often have been them. We have passed by the person in need, too busy to stop and give some time to them, letting someone else deal with the problem. I am not necessarily talking about the beggar in the street. It might be a friend or family member or a person who is difficult in the community. It might be showing indifference to the life of the unborn who have no voice but ours. It’s shocking how silent as Catholics we are on this subject. It might be the push to euthanise the elderly or disabled, saying it saves money and means we don’t have to be inconvenienced or made to feel uncomfortable by their special needs that should be met.

Maybe sometimes we see ourselves as the Samaritan. I am sure there are many times when we are, working the quiet work of faithful love and service of others that perhaps often goes unnoticed. These acts of love and self-sacrifice are the bedrock of any healthy community, bearing witness to Christ and his call to follow him.

Perhaps the person we least imagine ourselves to be is the victim, left for dead at the side of the road. The thought that it might be the person we dislike the most who stops and tends to our wounds and bears us to the house of healing is profoundly humbling. It confounds our prejudice and enables us to experience the incarnated reality of the divine law. Unless we are able to see ourselves as broken, requiring the help of a Good Samaritan, we will remain by the side of the road, lost and helpless.

Moses tells the people that the commandments are not in heaven and the gospel story reveals that the law has been incarnated and has dwelt amongst us. In fact it is before our very eyes. Christ is the Good Samaritan who come to bind up the wounds of fallen humanity, to carry us to the place of healing and pay the price to restore us to life.

Our acts of charity and works of love are at their best when motivated by gratitude. The Latin word gratia is the root of our words gratitude and grace. They are linked. We have freely received of God’s grace; we were lost and have been found; we were dead and have been made alive again in Christ. Our profound gratitude in the light of Christ’s immense generosity moves the heart to acts of gratuitous love.

Without this gratitude our acts of devotion to God and charity towards our neighbour may fall into grudging resentment. Out of our supposed strength we might find a bit of time to offer to God. “Well, the Church tells us we should; but let’s get it over and done with as quickly as possible.” Far too many also suffer from a sense of entitlement. A particular danger for priests is the attitude “How on earth did God’s Church survive without me?” Without gratitude, our needy neighbours can be seen as something of a burden that we have to carry — a cross to bear. There is the great danger of developing a patronising attitude of the strong and wise towards the supposedly weak and stupid.

Only when we are able to recognise that we are fellow-travellers on the road to salvation and eternal life can we begin to fulfil the law of the Lord: to love God with our entire being and our neighbour as ourself.

It is Christ our Good Samaritan who illuminates our understanding of Christ’s final words to the lawyer, “Go and do likewise.” It is an immense sense of gratitude that begins to answer the prayer “thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Let us follow Christ’s calling and create a little bit of heaven on earth, seeing the example he gave and going to do likewise.

¹ Luke 10:37
² Luke 10:27