The Gospel of Luke 10:25-37
At that time, a lawyer stood up to put Jesus to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the law? How do you read?” And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” And he said to him, “You have answered right; do this, and you will live.”
But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him, and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was; and when he saw him, he had compassion, and went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; then he set him on his own beast and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ Which of these three, do you think, proved neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed mercy on him.” And Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”
We all know this story; we have heard it on many occasions. But the question is to we know it on an intellectual level or do we know it in our hearts?
I have said before that Orthodoxy is not a religion that we can engage in our heads, Orthodoxy is a religion that has to be part of us to our very essence of who we are. When we say we are Orthodox Christians then that has to mean that we think with the mind of the church.
Today we read the story of the Good Samaritan from St. Luke’s Gospel. The commentary in the Orthodox Study Bible has this quote from St. Cyril of Alexandria regarding the priest in the story, “the dignity of the priesthood means nothing unless he also excels in deeds.” The priest in this story certainly did not excel in deeds.
Yesterday I wrote some thoughts about clergy discipline and what I think should happen to clergy who stray. Some may think my words were rough but, and I wrote this in yesterday’s essay, clergy should be held to a much higher standard.
Years ago I was introduced the BBC Drama Ballykissangel. The show takes place in a small village in rural Ireland and follows the daily lives of villagers at the center of which is the parish church. In the first episode, the old priest is talking to his new young curate about what he expects of him in his new assignment. He goes on to tell him about all of those who have come before him and how his most recent predecessor was here only for the suit. You see too many times the clergy are only interested in the suit. All they want is to dress up and take the place of honor at the table and to be called father! Sadly, I know clergy who are like this, and it is something that needs to stop.
I am not sure what our priest in today’s Gospel had going on. Maybe he was rushing off to hospital to anoint someone who was dying. Maybe he got a call that his child was sick at school, and he needed to fetch her and bring her home. St. Luke does not go into much detail about the priest, but, as St. Cyril says in the quote I used before, he has to show compassion as we all do, but as leaders in the community we need to set the example.
But for us the story does not end there, and we see what happens to the poor man in the end. Another came by, a layman, a Samaritan, and he stopped and helped this man. He bandaged his wounds and brought him, at his own expense, to an Inn and asked the Inn Keeper to care for him until her returned. He gave the Inn Keeper some money and told him if it costs more he will pay him on his return journey. So not only was the Samaritan compassionate but the Inn Keeper as well. He had to care for this man, and he did not know if his further expense would ever be paid. But he did it out of love for his neighbor.
Part of the office of the priest is to sanctify, he is to bring the Sacraments to the faithful, he is bind their wounds by aiding in the Sacramental Grace of God poured out through the Sacraments of the Church. We see that in today’s story as well.
The man binds his wounds with bandages and anoints them with oil, just as in baptism the new garment we put on delivers us from our sins and the oil of Chrismation gives us new life in the Holy Spirit. The man placed the wounded man on his own animal indicating Christ bearing our own sins. The Inn the man is brought too is symbolic of the Church the ideal place for healing and the price he pays is the price that Jesus paid on the cross to reconcile us from our sins.
In the opening verses of the Gospel Jesus tells them to love God and love neighbor. At the end of the story, he asks them who they thought showed the love of God to their neighbor and then tells them to go and do likewise. Jesus was speaking to each of us in this passage, but he is also speaking to the church. The Church needs to be the place from which we are sent out to minister to those we find along the highways and byways of our life. The Church needs to be the place where we are taught the skills necessary to bind up the wounds of those who are in the world and hurting.
Another aspect of the office the priest is teaching. We clergy need to teach the faithful what they are supposed to do. How will they be equipped to go out into the world and serve their neighbor if we do not teach them and then stand side by side shoulder to shoulder with them and do the work that is required? We are not to come in at the last minute, work the room, and then leave. The faithful need to see us getting our hands dirty and working to bring the love of Christ to everyone.
There is much work to be done in this world that so desperately needs us. Read this passage today and as Jesus so boldly proclaims, “Go and do likewise.”