A Sunday Reflection from the C.PP.S.
By Fr. Dennis Chriszt, C.PP.S.
In today’s first reading, Moses summarizes the whole law
in very simple words.
The law, he says, is not something mysterious,
something up in the sky…,
something across the sea….
No, it is something very near to you,
already in your mouths and in your heart.
The people of Israel had been saying it for years,
saying it several times a day,
saying it whether coming or going.
They have come to know it by heart.
It is simply this:
Hear, O Israel, the Lord your God is God alone.
You shall love the Lord, your God,
with all your heart,
with all your being,
with all your strength,
and with all your mind.
The scholar of the law in today’s Gospel knows this,
and he adds a summary of the rest of the law:
and [you shall love] your neighbor as yourself.
But the scholar of the law wants to know, how broad of a definition of neighbor
does Jesus have?
Even today, most of us want a narrow definition of neighbor.
We want to include only those we already love,
those who are already part of the people we care about.
We certainly do not want neighbor to include those we consider other.
We like to exclude them, whoever “them” happens to be.
But Jesus expands the notion of neighbor.
In the story he tells,
the one who is neighbor to victim of violence
is not one the people of his day would consider a neighbor.
A priest or a Levite might be considered a neighbor
to the victim of violence on his way to Jerusalem.
Any fellow Jew could be considered a neighbor,
but a Samaritan, one of those people who are usually considered to be among the enemies
of the people of Israel?
That would be astonishing.
In our world today,
most of us would have little or no problem
seeing the people of Ukraine as our neighbors,
but can we see the Russian people as neighbors,
can we see Vladimir Putin as our neighbor?
In our own nation,
can we see members of the other political party as our neighbors?
Can we see people of different races or ethnic backgrounds as neighbors?
Can we imagine those with whom we disagree even within the Church
as our neighbor?
Who are the people we don’t want to consider our neighbors?
In today’s Gospel,
Jesus invites us to not just look at them as our neighbors,
but to look for them,
to see them in their needs,
and not to walk on by,
not simply to look at them with compassion,
not to just offer them our thoughts and prayers,
but to something to alleviate their pain and sufferings.
The story of the Good Samaritan is as challenging today
as it was for the scholar of the law
some two thousand years ago.
Just as the people of Israel so long ago
knew what the law was,
but did not always live up to it,
so we know that we are to love the Lord
and our neighbor as ourselves.
Just as it was difficult to see some people as their neighbors.
it is sometime difficult to see certain people in our world as our neighbors,
but the Lord Jesus doesn’t just tell us this story,
he also reminds us that we are all God’s neighbors,
people whom God not only cares for,
even more than the Good Samaritan loved the victim of violence he encountered
along the road.
God loves us even to the last drop of his own Precious Blood.
Fr. Dennis Chriszt, C.PP.S., is the director of advanced formation for the Missionaries of the Precious Blood. He also directs Precious Blood Parish Missions (pbparishmissions.org).