Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 143; 147:12-20, Micah 5:1-4, 10-15, Revelation 9:1-12, Luke 10:25-37
The parable of the Good Samaritan is so famous, a category of laws has been named after it. It actually began with a lawyer who tested Jesus by asking how to achieve eternal life. Since one of the criteria was loving your neighbor as yourself, the lawyer tried to justify himself by asking: “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus then told the familiar story: a man is left for dead by thieves; a priest and a Levite (his people) pass him by; a Samaritan man bandages him up, takes him to an inn, and pays for his care. The now-familiar twist in this story is that Samaritans were bitter enemies of the Jews, but when Jesus asked who had been a good neighbor, the lawyer was forced to admit: “The one who showed him mercy.”
He must hot have been a great lawyer, because he let Jesus off the hook without an answer to the question. He asked: “Who is my neighbor?” and Jesus told him a story about being a good neighbor, then followed it up with: “Go and do likewise.”
Jesus skillfully redirected the lawyer away from the wrong question … and toward the right answer. The man was really asking: “What’s the minimum number of people I need to love?” Instead of listing criteria he could exploit to exclude people, Jesus gave him a parable which taught him he needed to worry less about defining who his neighbors were, and more about redefining himself as a neighbor to all.
Are we showing neighborly mercy? Here’s a hint: if we show it only to people we feel have earned it, the answer is “No.” We can ask what people deserve, why we are being unfairly burdened, or how much is enough, but Jesus may not bother with our questions. He cares more that we listen to his answers. He wants us to redefine ourselves by those answers – to be a neighbor even when we are also an enemy. Merciful love is not a prize to be won; it is a grateful response to a God who loved us first.
Comfort: You don’t have to earn God’s love.
Challenge: People shouldn’t have to earn your love.
Prayer: Merciful and loving God, may my heart, my words, and my deeds be a reflection of the infinite love you have shown me. Amen.
Discussion: Has someone you consider an enemy/rival ever surprised you with an act of kindness?
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