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."
Introductory Prayer: Almighty and ever-living God, I seek new strength from the courage of Christ our shepherd. I believe in you, I hope in you, and I seek to love you with all my heart, all my soul, all my mind and all my strength. I want to be led one day to join the saints in heaven, where your Son Jesus Christ lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever.
Petition: Jesus, may I love as you have loved me.
- Teacher, What Must I Do to Inherit Eternal Life?Since the human soul is spiritual, its longings are infinite in scope, and so we naturally want to live an eternity of happiness, an eternity full of life. Yet this scholar of the law has keenly perceived that eternal life is more than just the next step after death. I must do something in order to inherit it. My existence and my redemption are totally unmerited gifts from God: I never asked him for the gift of life nor did I ask him to die for me, yet here I am, alive and redeemed. What is more, I can never earn either existence or God´s free love. Yet there is at least an aspect of eternal life that derives from my merit. The quality of my eternal life corresponds to the quality of my love and the goodness of my deeds on this side of eternity.
- What Is Written in the Law?The response of Jesus verifies a profoundly Catholic understanding of reality. The scholar´s question could be put in another way: "What must I do to be saved?" One would expect the response to be: "Believe, have faith!" Yet Jesus already knows that this man has faith. He confirms that faith is certainly necessary for salvation, but that faith must be translated into love for us to have eternal life. When Jesus says, "What is written in the law," he presupposes faith in God, the author of the moral law. But in addition, he is inviting him to apply his faith to living the law in love. Faith and works are inseparable. "Whoever says, ´I know him,´ but does not keep his commandments, is a liar, and in such a person the truth does not exist; but whoever keeps his word, truly in this person the love of God has reached perfection" (1 John 2:4-5).
- Do This and You Will Live:With these words Jesus brings the lesson to a full conclusion. By loving as the Good Samaritan loves, we are on the path to a life that is never-ending, a life that we naturally long to experience and possess. We must always trust Jesus when we find that he places us in situations that stretch our love and generosity to limits that often hurt. He knows that we long for eternal life, but he also knows that the path to that life is a love that purifies, stretches, and demands our all. Therefore, Jesus invites us to follow him down the road of life-giving love. Every crucifix reminds us of this self-giving love that leads to life.