Compassion in Suprising Circumstances…Gospel Meditation for July 10th, 2016

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by Angela Lambert

July 10th, 2016; 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Gospel of Luke 10:25-37 NAB

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.”

Meditation Reflection:

G.K. Chesterton once said, “The Catholic faith has not been tried and found wanting, it has been found difficult and left untried.”  Judeo-Christian belief consists not merely in knowing God, but in covenant relationship with Him.  This means we cannot conveniently keep our faith in a box that we take out when we feel like it.  Relationship with God requires active following of His commands – from those given to Moses to those given by Christ.   The famous parable of the Good Samaritan illustrates our common human struggle for consistency between our faith and our practice of it.  It’s one thing to know God’s teachings, it’s another to do it.

As a religion teacher I am humbled by this struggle every day.  I begin each year by clarifying for my students that the Catholic faith I will share with them is true, freeing, and life-giving.  Nevertheless, as their teacher I know the faith well but I, like them, must struggle to practice it each day.  They need to know up front that I am a sinner working with the help of grace to conform my life to Christ’s.  They shouldn’t trust me because I live the faith perfectly but rather because every day I try.  

In Jesus’ parable three challenges to follow Jesus’ command, “Love one another as I have loved you” and the Lord’s command in the Old Testament to “love your neighbor as yourself” are presented – one representing a common failure and two representing Christian response.  The priest and the Levite, both of whom would have known the Law well and considered themselves strict adherents, pass by their fellow Jew in need.  They had what they considered prudential reasons to not stop, but in truth they were rationalizing their desire to look the other way and avoid the bother.  How often do we lack compassion for those nearest to us?  How often do we put off reaching out because we think we have more important or pressing matters?  In her speech as she received the Nobel Peace Prize, Mother Teresa urged  people in the West to show concern for those in their own homes and families.  She cited the plague of depression, loneliness, and deep emptiness experienced by children and the elderly often set aside by the busy lifestyles of adults.  She even noted that in some ways it’s easier to fill the needs of the poor in Calcutta because all they need is a little food or medical care.  In the Western culture, rich with material things, the needs go much deeper and prove more difficult to meet.  Her solution?  Begin with a smile.  This may sound easy but try practicing it, especially when you feel bothered or exasperated by annoying tendencies, mannerisms, habits, etc. of your loved ones.  It’s a shame that we tend to treat those closest to us the worst!  Imagine if we could have greater compassion for our families. If we mastered that, it would enable us to have compassion toward anyone.

The Samaritan, overlooked the animosity between his people and the Jews because he felt “moved with compassion” at the sight of another human person in such horrible pain and humiliation.  The Samaritan treated the man as person with personal care.   He did not shrink back from the blood but provided medical care himself.  For reasons not provided in the parable, he had to leave the man the next day but even still the Samaritan provided for the wounded man from his own wallet and risked even more money to see that the man was restored to full health.  The Samaritan took no half-measures.  He cared for the man, provided for him, then returned to see that the man was well again.  It can be uncomfortable and difficult to concern ourselves with the problems of persons with whom we are unfamiliar.  It’s easier to pass them over or look the other way and we can find plenty of reasons to rationalize that it’s not our problem.  Yet, to love as Christ loved, we must in fact seek out those in need, attend to them even at personal cost, and allow grace to soften our hearts so we may be moved with compassion.

Finally, the innkeeper had to make a decision as well.  Imagine his surprise when he opens the door to a prospective guest only to find a foreigner carrying a beaten, half-dead man. In addition to admitting two less than ideal guests, he is asked to care for the wounded man and, if need be, provide for any expenses required for his recovery, relying only on the promise of the Samaritan to return with payment. We too encounter analogous situations in numerous ways.  Unexpected guests in need of our love appear in family life, at work, or literally at our door.  It may be a child you hadn’t “planned”, a relative in need, a friend of your child or spouse, a struggling co-worker, or a client.

Discipleship means opening our eyes to the needs around us, allowing our hearts to be moved with compassion, and to share in the sorrow of someone we’d rather pass by.  It could be a friend who needs to talk despite your busy schedule, a child needing comfort in the middle of the night when you would rather sleep, a testy teen who needs patience and firm but loving rules, an awkward colleague whose lonely and has difficulty making friends, or encouraging a family member when tempted to criticize them.

Jesus said, “Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me’” (Matthew 25:40).  These words motivated Mother Teresa every day and made possible the extraordinary love she showed to those that society found most repulsive. May we follow her example and also heed the exhortation from the first reading for today from Deuteronomy, especially in this special Year of Mercy:

For this command that I enjoin on you today is not too mysterious and remote for you. It is not up in the sky, that you should say, ‘Who will go up in the sky to get it for us and tell us of it, that we may carry it out?’ Nor is it across the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will cross the sea to get it for us and tell us of it, that we may carry it out?’ No, it is something very near to you, already in your mouths and in your hearts; you have only to carry it out.

 Consider:

  •  Who do you find difficult to love?  What behaviors particularly annoy you or what tasks of love do you avoid?
    • In your family: (ideas: sleepless infants, whining kids, testing teens, moody or preoccupied spouse, a manipulative relative, elderly parent or grandparent who is lonely or in need of care, a competitive sibling…)
    • In your work: (lonely co-worker, new person in need of extra help getting acclimated, competitive co-worker, difficult boss, insensitive cubicle-mate, overwhelmed colleague…)
    • In your home-life: (a friend in need after a surgery, a new baby, or a loss; a neighbor kid who seems left alone too much or neglected, a single-mom whose driveway needs plowed or a word of encouragement, a young family in need of a free babysitter so the couple can have some time together, a new neighbor in need of help getting to know everyone…)
  • Do you nurture compassion and understanding for those suffering in other countries? Do you make an effort to understand some of the complexities of their struggles and their personal challenges?
  • Have you ever been the recipient of someone’s compassionate mercy in a time of need?
  • What teachings do you find difficult to practice?

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • Consider an aspect of discipleship in which you need to grow.  Decide how to practice it concretely each day this week.  (Think of who needs you, what he or she needs from you, and how you will meet that need.  For example exercising more patience toward someone by smiling at them intentionally each day and doing one thing that would be of help for them.)
  • Pray each day for compassion and a softened heart.
  • Read Mother Teresa’s speech from when she received the Nobel Peace Prize. http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/peace/laureates/1979/teresa-lecture.html
  • Learn about the struggles of someone in foreign country.

 

~ Written by Angela Lambert © 2016

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