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Charity Above All (Part 1)
Monday of the Twenty-Seventh Week in Ordinary Time
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.”
Opening Prayer: Lord, thank you for this time to pray. Thank you for the gifts you have given me. Make my heart more like yours—help me see the people lying on the side of the road of my life, and give me the courage to pick them up and help them on their way.
- The Simple Life: Life, when it comes down to it, is really very simple. At least, what Christ asks of us is very simple: Love God and love others. The scholar in this episode knew what to do, but as it is with us, he found it difficult to put into practice. So he started rationalizing, just like we do: “Who really is my neighbor? Surely I don’t have to love everyone as myself—that is impossible! Everyone? As myself?” Christ sees that this scholar does not need rational arguments, but an image, and so he gives us the beautiful parable of the Good Samaritan, showing us that charity is not something we think out and prepare, but something that either we have in our hearts or we don’t. If we have it, it will overflow to the people around us. If not, we will pass by on the other side of the road.
- The Dictatorship of Human Respect: What made the priest and the Levite pass by this poor man lying on the side of the road? Surely they knew that they should help him…didn’t they? It’s easy for us to judge them, but we do the same thing all the time. How often do we “pass by” because we’re embarrassed, because it would just be too awkward. The Good Samaritan, meanwhile, sees someone lying almost dead on the side of the road, hears his conscience nudge him to go to the man’s aid, and does it. The need of the other was more important than his own “awkwardness.” May we realize that awkwardness or human respect is never an excuse to leave others suffering.
- Go and Do Likewise: Christ does not say to go and be nice. He does not say go and empathize. He does not say go and help others if you find yourselves with some free time. Those things are all fine, but the example of charity Christ gives us is different. A man gets off his horse (or out of his car), takes a dying man up, puts him on his own horse, and walks him to the nearest inn (which cannot have been very close—they were in the middle of the wilderness). He sets him up with the innkeeper, to whom he gives around three-hundred dollars, and promises to come back. That is what Christ means by charity.
Conversing with Christ: Lord, thank you for this moment of prayer. Help me to see the people in my life lying on the road with no one to help them. Give me eyes like yours to see beyond myself, beyond my needs and wants. Lord, I know you are calling me to serve—open my eyes.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will seek out and help the person I normally pass on the other side of the road.
For Further Reflection: One of the greatest modern examples we have of loving our neighbors is Dorothy Day. Here is a short collection of the thoughts and prayers that sustained her.
Written by Brother Riley Connors.