Do you remember the story of the little boy, his mom, and his lost coin? The little boy was diligently looking for his lost coin on the lawn in front of his home. His mom, who just returned from the grocery store joined him in the search. After a few minutes of not finding the coin, his mom asked him where exactly he dropped the coin. The little boy replied, “Under the sink in the kitchen.” His surprised mom asked, “Why then are you outside looking for what you lost in the kitchen?” He replied, “Because there is no light in the kitchen.”
In today’s first reading and gospel passage, Moses, and Jesus, like the little boy’s mom are asking us to go back inside the house and find the lost coin; for as long as we continue to search outside for what was lost inside, we will never find it. In the first reading, Moses said to the Israelites, “[T]his command…is not up in the sky…Nor is it across the sea…it is in your mouths and your hearts; you have only to carry it out.” In the gospel passage, a lawyer came to Jesus to get answers from him, but Jesus turned the table around and made the lawyer to find the answer in himself. The lawyer came to Jesus to show his smartness. You know how lawyers are: brilliant, and always out to defend their position, looking for loopholes in their opponent’s position and ready to take advantage of such loopholes. Unfortunately for this lawyer, he didn’t know that his opponent, Jesus, is the Law himself.
The lawyer wanted Jesus to tell him what he should do to have eternal life. Jesus asked him to share what he read from the law. To sound learned, he answered correctly by talking about the command to love God and to love neighbor. Jesus then asked him to go and obey them and have life. But since he wanted to find fault with Jesus, he went further to ask who a neighbor was. Rather than fall into his trap, Jesus made him answer the question by using the famous parable of the Good Samaritan. You would notice that while the lawyer’s question was “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus rephrased the question into “How can you prove yourself a neighbor?”
The question about who the neighbor is was crucial among the Jews. The Jews agreed with the commandment to love neighbor, but they had different notions of who a neighbor was. Some believed a neighbor was a fellow Jew. Others, in addition to that also thought that a resident alien who has embraced the covenant of the LORD could be considered a neighbor, but generally, they agreed that no one outside these could be regarded as a neighbor. At the end of the Story, the Lawyer answered that the Samaritan was the one who proved himself to be a neighbor to the robber’s victim. Not the priest, and not the Levite. The Samaritan did not go asking to know why the man traveled at night; he did not ask why he traveled alone; he did not even ask who the wounded man was but what his need was. The Samaritan was the good neighbor.
Who is a Samaritan? The Samaritan was half-Jew and half-Pagan in origin and religion. When the northern tribes of Israel were invaded in 732 B.C. and 721 B.C., many of them were taken into exile while a few were left behind. Those left behind intermarried with some of the Assyrian invaders, so they welcomed their strange gods, their cultures and gave birth to children with mixed blood. Then came a big divide between the Samaritans and the Jews who did not mix up with foreigners. There was mutual hatred between them.
But who is the Samaritan in our context today? The Samaritan is the foreigner, those we dislike because they neither talk like us nor look like us, the person against whom we have any form of prejudice, the immigrant, the protestant, the one who practices a different religion or does not even believe in God, the single mom, the one from another race, the minority, the homeless, the addict, the one battling mental illness. Just like the law, the Samaritan is not far away in the sky or across the sea. The Samaritan is within us challenging us to be more helpful to strangers and those in need, showing us the real face of God. The Samaritan is our conscience- God’s voice in us.
My dearly beloved in Christ, we may have questions troubling us: Is there anything wrong about abortion and euthanasia? Do I not have the right to do what I like with my body? What is the definition of marriage? As parents, older siblings, teachers, religious leaders, civil/political leaders, have we diligently carried out our responsibilities to protect the lives and innocence of the children entrusted to us by God? Have we contributed to the evil in the society by commission or omission? We know the answer in our hearts.
Someone once said that if a person keeps asking you the same question that you have been answering, know that that person is not interested in the truth, that person only wants you to say what he/she has in mind. Jesus and Moses, tell us point blank that we all know what is right; do it, and have eternal life. May the grace of God be sufficient for us in this endeavor, through Christ our Lord. Amen.