The Good Samaritan

Yesterday was one of those rare occasions where I did not have to preach. One of the many challenges of pastoral ministry, for me anyway, is preaching. Orthodox Christians are not known for their ability to preach, some are trying to change that. I only had one class in seminary on preparing the sermon so that will show the level of importance placed on the sermon in the seminary academic structure.
With that said I thought I would leave some comments on the Gospel passage that was read at the Liturgy yesterday. The passage was taken from the Gospel of St. Luke chapter 10 and verses 25-37 the Parable of the Good Samaritan. We all know the story so I will not bore you with a recitation of that story.
The point of this story, as is the point of the entirety of the Gospel is love of Neighbor. I have written before that we will not be judged on how many services we attend or how well we chant but on how we treated our neighbor. All of the people in the story, including the priest walked by the injured man and did not stop to help. Some looked and moved on quickly, some looked and changed the side of the street, and others did not look at all. Does this sound familiar? How many times, I have done this myself, have we seen someone in need and we just walk quickly by?
Jesus tells us in Matthews Gospel chapter 25 and verse 40, “Inasmuch as you did it to the least of these My brethren, you did it to me.” He had just concluded a conversation about the hungry, the sick, and those in prison and the “righteous” asked Him when did we see you hungry, sick, or in prison and this was His response.
As an Orthodox Christian I believe that all of humanity has been created in the image and likeness of God. Humanity is, in a very real sense, and Icon of Christ! When we look into the eyes of our neighbor we are looking into the eyes of Christ so when we walk past that person in need we are walking past Christ!
The Samaritan in the story showed the very love of Christ that we need to show to our neighbor. The bandages, oil, and wine that the Samaritan used to help the person in need are indeed images of the Sacramental life, the garment of baptism that removes the wounds of sin, the oil of Chrismation that gives us new life in the Holy Spirit, the communion of the divine blood that leads to eternal life. He placed the man on his own animal, a representation of Christ bearing our sins in His own body and the inn that he took the man to reveals the Church in which the care of Christ is received. How can we turn our backs on that?
Love of neighbor is not easy but then neither is the Christian life. Christian life is not just going to Church on Sunday it is caring and loving, your neighbor and those who are least.
A few years back, Metropolitan Jonah of the OCA asked in a talk where are the Orthodox Hospitals, the Orthodox Homeless shelters, the Orthodox Soup Kitchens? Yes there exists on a small scale but need to exist in a much larger and visible way. We need to be the hands of Christ and bring the bandages, oil, and wine to the world that needs us. If we do not do that then I submit the faith of the Orthodox is a dead and useless faith for as St. James tells us, “Faith without works is a dead faith!”
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