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Parish Cells Of Evangelisation

Homily given by Fr. John at the Dublin Diocesan Cells Retreat Day.

Our Lady's Nativity Parish Centre

16th April 2016


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So begins the story: This nameless traveller savagely attacked and robbed by bandits was left for dead on the side of the road. Two representatives of the Jewish religion the Priest and the Levite pass by in turn, they obviously did not ask themselves 'who is my neighbour?' because they did not help the injured man. The one person who does stop is a Samaritan.

In a real sense what is most disturbing in this story isn't the attack made on the innocent man but rather that two people who one would expect to help this man pass by without even showing compassion for him, not that compassion by itself would have done any good. How could their feelings be so cold, in our world today this indifference to the pain and suffering of others is widespread. The Priest and the levite did not stop because the first question that came to their mind was What will happen to me if I stop? Whereas the first question that came to the Samaritan's mind was what will happen to the wounded man if I don't stop?

He is not thinking about himself, what will happen to him? He is only interested in what he has to do. At the times we live in today, people are cautious about getting involved, because getting involved is messy, it disrupts your life.

You never know the amount of work and trouble you are letting yourself in for if you decide to answer a call for help. It seems so much safer and far easier to close your heart and go quietly by, on the other side of the road. Sometimes we define a good neighbour as the person who always minds his own business.

The strong point in this parable (story) is that Jesus shows us a Samaritan helping a Jew. He was not a religious man, and the wounded man was a Jew, and they hated the Samaritans. Yet, this Samaritan brushed all this aside, and opened his heart to the wounded man, he had compassion for him and what was more important he stopped to help. Perhaps at one time or another we were like the Jewish Priest and the Levite who cleared off this dangerous road before they might be attacked themselves. Perhaps like them there were times when we lack concern for a fellow human being, we might at that time be too pre-occupied with ourselves. Today, there are many people wounded on the roadside of life, and their wounds are not always visible. People are wounded in spirit, a depressed man or woman who has lost their spouse, the person who has worked all their life and is now out of their job having been made redundant. Perhaps the wound is being deserted as a wife and mother, neglected children, a forgotten older person. All are waiting for the coming of a Good Samaritan.

When Jesus came on this earth he identified with injured humanity, like the Good Samaritan he took pity on it. So, to be a good neighbour in this jubilee year of mercy is to recognise that there is a world crying out for mercy at our own door.

People are hungry for love and attention, crushed by disappointment, failure, guilt, and wounded by sin. To love God is to love our neighbour in his or her distress. Compassion is more than doing things for a person in need, it means looking into another soul and listening to the pain of that person, and then trying to take some of the cross from the back of another person, and feeling now the weight on one's own shoulders. The suffering of the poor and the oppressed had a powerful effect on Jesus.

Jesus story of the Good Samaritan reminds us not to be racist, as the Jews were against the Samaritans. So we should not make generalisations or pre-judge people. Jesus makes the Samaritan the model of Christian love. This story is a story of love and compassion, especially for those most in need. It is a story about all of us, at one time or another when we needed help, when we needed someone to help us and help did not come. This story leaves us with the question - How can I become a good neighbour to others? This parable is found only in St. Luke's Gospel, and it takes its root in the summary of the Sermon on the Mount. Luke 6: V 36 - "Be merciful like the Father",

Mercy does not require a set of laws to regulate it, only sensitivity to people and to their needs. In Luke's Gospel it is the Good Samaritan, Jesus and the father who show compassion and who show mercy. Eternal life is not just a life that goes on forever, it is a life that is able to reach something of the depth of love and joy in this life, and it calls out to continue this joy and love into eternity to explore its richness.

Jesus has broadened the idea of neighbour for us in this parable, the lawyer may just have wanted to have his traditional belief that his neighbours were those who shared the covenant with him, but Jesus turns this notion on its head. The one who shows love, and therefore becomes the model of how one is to find life, is the outsider, the despised Samaritan, with whom Jews would not even share a drinking vessel for fear of contamination. (John 4:9)

It is surprising, if not embarrassing, for people who are proud to call themselves religious to discover that our greatest instructors in the matter of how to live and how to love are often those who have no religious dimension to their lives. Their compassion and goodness show that they are not far from the kingdom of God.

In this regard I take hope from our young people. They may not be with us at the Celebration of the Eucharist each Sunday, and perhaps only very occasionally, yet they are proud of their acts of kindness, generosity, thoughtfulness, care, gentleness, affirming of one another and many other virtues. They are without realising it building up the Kingdom of God, so let us encourage them at times of marriage, birth of a baby and many other ordinary times. Let us be thankful to God for them.

The cup is half full.

Fr John McNamara, Administrator, Leixlip Parish.
Luke 10: 25 -37

The story of the Good Samaritan presents us with a person who helped another in need, secondly it presents us with a person who needed help and accepted, that Jesus himself is the Good Samaritan, in his attitudes to his people.

Love of God and one's neighbour was the greatest commandment. The people of Israel knew that, but they took, "neighbour", to mean a fellow Jew or Believer. Jesus asks us to go beyond all of that.

I become the neighbour of anyone who has need of me. We are not to be exclusive in determining who is my neighbour? The law was quite clear - the way to life in practical terms was on existence inspired by love of God and of one's neighbour. But the Lawyer who questioned Jesus about "Who is my Neighbour?" wanted clear and certain rulings which would identify this neighbour, but Jesus was not going to curtail his definition of NEIGHBOUR to such a narrow concept.