Gospel: Lk 10:25-37
Then a teacher of the law came and began putting Jesus to the test. And he said, “Master, what shall I do to receive eternal life?” Jesus replied, “What is written in the law? How do you understand it?” The man answered, “It is written: You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength and with all your mind. And you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus replied, “What a good answer! Do this and you shall live.” The man wanted to justify his question, so he asked, “Who is my neighbor?”
Jesus then said, “There was a man going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him, beat him and went off, leaving him half-dead.
It happened that a priest was going along that road and saw the man, but passed by on the other side. Likewise a Levite saw the man, and passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan also was going that way; and when he came upon the man, he was moved with compassion. He went over to him, and cleaned his wounds with oil and wine, and wrapped them in bandages. Then he put him on his own mount, and brought him to an inn, where he took care of him.
The next day, he had to set off; but he gave two silver coins to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him, and whatever you spend on him, I will repay when I return.’”
Jesus then asked, “Which of these three, do you think, made himself neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” The teacher of the law answered, “The one who had mercy on him.” And Jesus said, “Then go and do the same.”
Today’s gospel reading presents the Parable of the Good Samaritan, one of the most famous parables of Jesus, and rightly so because it is a literary gem full of twists and turns.
In this story we must not be too surprised that the priest going down the road to Jericho passes on to the other side. He is probably just returning from performing his priestly duties in the temple of Jerusalem. Now, since the victim of the robbers is probably unconscious and bleeding, the priest might suspect that the victim is dead. If that is the case and he approaches the man nearer than four cubits, he will incur ritual defilement and will have to go back to Jerusalem for purification. Besides, maybe the robbers are hiding nearby and waiting to pounce on whoever would stop to help the victim. Finally, the victim might be a sinner, or even one of those accursed Samaritans! But since the Writings (Sir 12:1-7) forbid good Jews to help sinners, it seems wiser not to stop. And so, the priest moves on.
When we want to avoid doing a good action, do we not often act like this priest and rationalize our hardness of heart by a thousand flimsy excuses?