15th Sunday in Ordinary Time Reflection by Deacon Tim Sullivan

Deacon Tim Sullivan

Today's Gospel passage by Luke starts with a scholar of the law trying to test Jesus. His test is one that concerns all of us, what must we do if we want to inherit eternal life? This wasn’t a concern of the lawyer, it was only meant to try to trip Jesus up. Jesus gives the reply that you shall love God and your neighbor as yourself. This wasn’t good enough for the lawyer who then asks, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus takes this opportunity to expand on who our neighbor is by way of the parable of the Good Samaritan. A man was on a journey and was set upon by robbers and left for half dead by the side of the road. Both a priest and a Levite came upon him and crossed to the other side of the road so as not to become ritually impure.Next came a Samaritan who took pity on the man, treated and dressed his wounds, placed him on his own animal, and took him to an inn to recover. (At this time Jews and Samaritans were enemies, there was no love lost between them.) Despite this the Samaritan did everything he could for the Jew he had helped.

I can’t think of a more fitting and pertinent parable for us today. Both in our own country and globally, we are witnessing the marginalization of people because of their immigration status, their religion, and national origin. We’re seeing this in our own country in the campaign process as well as other countries throughout the world, i.e., an exaggerated sense of national pride that has led to xenophobic intolerance. The people who are being subjected to this discrimination are our neighbors though.  Jesus’ parable didn’t teach the worthiness of being cared for but rather teaches who we must care for and who we must consider our neighbor. Everyone is worthy of respect and this is at the forefront of all Jesus’ teachings. I imagine he raised more than a few eyebrows when he told the Jews that the Samaritans were their brothers, but Jesus provided no exceptions.

Many of our families in years past faced this same type of discrimination. The Irish, Poles, Germans, Hungarians, Russians, Jews, and Asians to name only a few endured this non-acceptance. I can speak about the Irish with some familiarity. When they immigrated to the United States from the mid-1800’s to the early 20th century, fleeing famine and political oppression, they were treated in the same way. On the doors of businesses signs were posted “Irish need not apply,” and in other businesses “dogs and Irish not allowed.” There were political cartoons in the newspapers portraying the Irish as brutish monkeys. Their Catholicism was mocked and there was fear that the Pope was going to try to take over the United States. At that time the United States was primarily a WASP country and any deviation from the norm was looked upon as something to be avoided and put down.

Today we can look back with pride on our families who endured great hardships to make a new life in the United States. All of us, unless we are of Native American ancestry, came from someplace else. When we look around us we can see who our brothers and sisters are. They are the Hispanic immigrant, the Syrian refugee, those who are persecuted and killed in their own countries.Those fleeing war, terrorism, and poverty.

Jesus asked the lawyer, “Which of these three, in your opinion, was neighbor to the robbers’ victim?”He answered, “The one who treated him with mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.” 

I imagine Jesus would tell us the same thing today.