There was a scholar of the law who stood up to test him and said, "Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" Jesus said to him, "What is written in the law? How do you read it?" He said in reply, "You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself." He replied to him, "You have answered correctly; do this and you will live." But because he wished to justify himself, he said to Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?" Jesus replied, "A man fell victim to robbers as he went down from Jerusalem to Jericho. They stripped and beat him and went off leaving him half-dead. A priest happened to be going down that road, but when he saw him, he passed by on the opposite side. Likewise a Levite came to the place, and when he saw him, he passed by on the opposite side. But a Samaritan traveler who came upon him was moved with compassion at the sight. He approached the victim, poured oil and wine over his wounds and bandaged them. Then he lifted him up on his own animal, took him to an inn and cared for him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper with the instruction, ´Take care of him. If you spend more than what I have given you, I shall repay you on my way back.´ 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." (Luke 10: 25 – 37)
Who is my neighbor?
The scribe in the Gospel, trying to justify himself, asks a second question to Jesus: “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus answers with the story of the Good Samaritan, which is like a compendium of the Gospel. We might also call this parable: "the story of the stripped man." Jesus’ point is that our neighbor is anyone who we encounter on our way who is in need. The stripped man in the story is appealing to the conscience of ALL those who see him stripped and naked. That person—or rather, Jesus—is asking us to recognize in the face of a stranger—a face unfamiliar due mistreatment by ‘robbers’–the face of a brother or sister. In other words, Jesus is asking us to overcome our natural INDIFFERENCE to others. And like the naked man on the side of the road, our neighbor in need asks for concrete help, not just good intentions and moral support.
Make no mistake: Our Lord is very clear in the Gospels that at the end of our lives, we will be judged according to our practice of charity; the generosity of our response to the needy people God puts in our lives. Through our parish, we have a blessed opportunity to perform works of charity on a level that we could never reach on our own. Through our parish we can meet the material and, more importantly, the spiritual needs of those around us who are crying out—by word or deed—for the truth that liberates, for authentic love, for food for body and soul...most of all for Jesus Christ, who is all of these things.
However, before our Parish is able to fulfill its role as a “good Samaritan”, it needs to be cared for, and nursed back to health itself. Our Parish is ‘naked’ without your support. Therefore, I am asking you to see St. Mark’s as the naked man in the Gospel this Sunday. We need $815,000.00 in Sunday giving to sustain our parish operations. If 600 families gave $30 per week, we will have enough to sustain ourselves. That is what we need to ‘pay the innkeeper’, if you will. Yet the bill will not be paid unless all those who are coming to St. Mark’s decide to give with generosity; only if ALL the members of our family realize that THEIR SACRIFICIAL GIVING is necessary to make St. Mark’s a STRONG FAMILY that will stand and grow and give for many more years.
The alternative is a weak parish that just ‘gets by’. This is not Our Lord’s vision for an alive and strong parish community in His Church. We are called to not only nourish ourselves with the Sacraments and a strong formation in the Catholic faith, but to reach beyond ourselves to touch the lives of those who do not yet know the treasures of the Church’s sacramental life and the peace that comes from knowing and living the TRUTH. Yet to do that takes spiritual and material resources, which we all need to provide: time, talents and money.
Once we know who are neighbor is, the next question is, what do we do?
As the parable continues, the priest and the Levite just passed the naked man by. This part of the story must have made the scribe who Jesus was speaking to feel ashamed, for according to Jesus; those who should best know God’s will were those who were least doing it. We Catholics are the modern day priests and Levites. We have been graced with knowledge of God’s plan for the human race that non-believers do not have. Consequently we have a grave obligation to SERVE those who are spiritually less fortunate. As I’ve said, our Parish is our corporate body for doing that together.
We CANNOT pretend anymore that we don't see the needs of our Parish, like the “religious” in the Gospel with the stripped man. We can't continue to come around for masses and events but not help in maintenance of the Parish. Today the Word of God invites us all to make a serious examination of our conscience and a revision of our life. The credibility of our preaching requires LOVE WITH SPECIFIC WORKS. The Good Samaritan does exactly that. He changes a story from injury and indifference to a story of FRATERNAL LOVE. Interestingly, the mind of God selects a SAMARITAN, one considered in Jesus' time to be UNFAITHFUL and DESPICABLE, to be the one who is moved to COMPASSION for the suffering and naked man. The Good Samaritan is the image and role model for all of us to follow: THE ONE THAT LIVES FOR OTHERS, WILLING TO SHARE IN THE SUFFERINGS OF OTHERS.
We are all so busy with our God-given responsibilities that few of us have time to go walking the streets looking for those who are in need. Yet through our Parish we can do exactly that. We can help those looking for the Sacraments, for a faithful Catholic School, for Faith Formation for Youths and for Adults, for Youth Groups, Couples Groups, etc. But first we need to care for the body of St. Mark’s, so it is capable of these works. Remember, your answer (with specific donations) is going to shape THE REAL VALUE OF YOUR LIFE and the Lives of OTHERS. Become today the Good Samaritan for St. Mark’s Family and together let’s make A STRONG FAMILY UNITED IN CHRIST
Praised are you, O God, our loving creator and giver of all good gifts. Bless our parish, strengthen our faith and grant us the spirit of Christian stewardship so that we may give generously of our time in worship and prayer, our talent, and our treasure to the spread of Your kingdom here in our church and throughout the world. This we ask through Jesus Christ, Your son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God now and forever. Amen.