Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?” He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” And he said to him, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.”
But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.
But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.’ Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved. http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations
I recently heard a story on NPR entitled “The Biology Of Altruism: Good Deeds May Be Rooted In The Brain.” The story discusses “extreme” good Samaritans, like people who donate a kidney to a stranger without asking for money in return. The research concludes that the extreme altruist has a larger, more sensitive amygdalae, a part of the brain that processes emotion, than most people. The story made me wonder what size my amygdale is. Might I be an “extreme” good Samaritan? I’m pretty sure I would not donate my kidney to someone I don’t know. I concluded that I must not be an “extreme” good Samaritan.
In today’s gospel we hear the familiar parable of the good Samaritan. Jesus does not talk about bigger, more sensitive amygdales being required for entrance into eternal life. Instead, he says to love God and your neighbor, and when pushed for more he tells a story in which the hero shows mercy and compassion for his enemy.
I applaud those who do “extreme” altruistic acts. I even envy their courage. I’m also happy that doing small acts with love and mercy are acceptable. “To love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” Today, how can we be more like the Samaritan and show love and mercy to those in need? Can we find an opportunity to be more neighborly, even if we find our neighbor to be difficult?
—Sharron Deax Hanisch earned a Master of Theological Studies degree from the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry (formerly Weston Jesuit School of Theology). She is the mother of four children and a teacher at the School of Lectio Divina, St. Joseph Monastery, Tulsa, OK
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy.
O, Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; it is in dying that we are born again to eternal life
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