15th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year C
What Do You Avoid to Stay Out of the Dirt?
The parable of the Good Samaritan is told to a “scholar of the law” who wants to “test” Jesus (v.25). He asks Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life, but it’s a rhetorical question because the scholar clearly knows the answer. Jesus tells the scholar his answer is correct, and if he indeed follows the greatest commandment, he “will live” (v. 28). Then the real test comes because the scholar wants to “justify” himself, so he asks, “And who is my neighbor?” (v. 29).
Look at the words used in these four verses: scholar, test, justify. This scholar is a man who knows he’s right and is out to prove it.
Proving is not Jesus’s way. Jesus leads people to discover the truth for themselves. That’s why He tells stories, teaches in parables. Proving is a show of force. Jesus is never about force; His way is almost always gentle guidance.
His parable of the Good Samaritan does just that, guides the scholar to see that Samaritans are not all bad. In some cases, they are better than the holiest of holies in the Jewish tradition. Both the priest and the Levite passed the victim on the opposite side of the road. I think the detail of “opposite side of the road” was included to give the priest and the Levite an excuse. If questioned, they could say they didn’t see him—they were on the “opposite side of the road.” No one would quibble. They would be able to justify their actions.
There’s that word again, justify. What are we trying to justify in our own lives? What are we out to prove? Whatever it is, we should look at it carefully. If it’s there to put us in a position of strength, to make us powerful, we should examine it even more closely. Like money, power and authority are not bad in and of themselves. But when the acquisition and maintenance of power and authority becomes the sole reason for our existence, there’s a problem. If we use them to keep us out of the dirt, that’s not Jesus’s way.
What do we pass by on the opposite side to avoid dirtying our power and authority?
Goethe said, “Love does not dominate, it cultivates, and that is more.”
Jesus didn’t say that, he lived it. Do we?
Written by Ansley Dauenhauer, Coordinator of Elementary Faith Formation