The Law of Love and Justice: Two RCWP Homilies for 6/10/16-15th Sunday in OT
Today is the day that we hear the story of the Good Samaritan in the Gospel reading: Luke 10:25-37. This is certainly a parable for our times. We live every day in the midst of often horrific local and global conflicts that pit “my group” against “that group.”In Jesus’ time the Jews and Samaritans were enemies across the border and across the street that could not agree on anything- where to worship, how to worship, the one right way mentality and racial and ethnic differences. Jesus was courageous enough to address this with a parable that probably no one wanted to hear. This parable is often “spiritualized”, but here Jesus is teaching what the love of God and our fellow human beings looks like in the context of terrible conflict.
And it is the story of our times here and now. Most notably this week we have two black men in different parts of the USA and in different circumstances killed by white policemen as they tried to comply to what the police asked of them. Then we have five white policemen killed in Dallas, Texas in a spirit of vengeance and retaliation. And, internationally and locally we have the ongoing assault of terrorism and hatred. The words Paris, Istanbul,Bangladesh, and Orlando all speak in code of this terrorism. And, in Orlando, and elsewhere, the words “hate crime” also apply. Orlando speaks to the hatred against members of the LGBTQ community and Latinos mixed with the perverted understanding of the Muslim religion that “radical” terrorists adopt. And in our own community here in Fort Myers, the black on black crime/murder by young thugs makes headlines at least twice a week, and trust for the police is very shaky despite some good local efforts and the new hiring of a black Chief of Police who will have to prove himself and the force trustworthy. I look at the people in my congregation and wonder if a stray or well aimed bullet will end a life this week. Relatives of our families have been killed this year in this crazy violence of young men with guns and assault rifles. Some have been shot by ricochet and some by direct aim in “making good on a beef”-in this strategy not only the gang member is a target but ANY member of his family, young or old. We also have a law here forgiving good Samaritans of any prosecution for crime if they save a life. It is time for us to put ourselves meaningfully into the Good Samaritan story.
Jesus told this story in response to a question from a “scholar of the law” who asked what he must do to inherit eternal life? In response to Jesus’ question about how the scholar read the law, the scholar answered according to Jesus’ own sense of the essence of the Law: love God totally and love your neighbor as yourself. Jesus and the scholar were on the same wavelength. Or so it would appear until the scholar asked “Who is my neighbor ?” Obviously Jesus’ answer was not what he expected or wanted to hear. The real neighbor who saved the Jewish man who was assaulted and mugged on the dangerous road to Jericho was the hated Samaritan. He not only helped the victim but went the second and third mile, tending his wounds and paying for lodging for him.
Here are some stories I know about good Samaritans. This is an ad we see on TV here: there is currently a bad heroin epidemic and four addicts are shooting up. One,a woman is suddenly dying of an overdose. Two of the men run away as they fear for their lives. The third is terrified but calls 911 and acts to save her with CPR at the instruction of the Operator. When he is told that he has saved her life and simply commended the look on his face says “this could transform me”.
An elderly white woman was assaulted and robbed by black youth on the way home from the store. What little she had was taken from her and she was frightened and hurt. An older black man gently assisted her and saw her home. When he suggested that she press charges she replied: “they must have needed what I had, they are good boys, I can’t press charges”. Here both the man and the victim, the woman, are the good Samaritans.
A black woman tearfully brought a wreath to place on a spontaneous memorial for the policemen killed in Dallas. She said this was in thanksgiving for their service and assistance. She was joined by a beautiful rainbow variety of other people moved to tears by this anti-police terrorism.
Many white people and Hispanics and Asians, young and old joined in the mourning and orderly protests for the black men killed by police in Minneapolis and Baton Rouge. As we step out with courage against all forms of hatred, we are good Samaritans.
Yesterday we attended a traditional Roman Catholic Mass with a black woman from our community. When we are not having our own Mass we travel from church to church in the greater community, introducing some of our members to other churches. In this huge well attended church there may have been two or three black people all together. The priest incorporated great empathy for the violence against police into his sermon. He even had a Sheriff who was black come up for a blessing at the end and asked him to say a few words. He asked for cooperation from the community. This was moving, but sadly, it only encompassed one half of the problem.This priest of good will failed to ask us to mourn and pray also for the black men who were killed by the police and their families. Similarly the priest in the Television Mass on EWTN prayed only for the policemen killed not the other victims of brutality and murder by police-perhaps police who were truly frightened and not well trained enough, but who killed without actual threat to their lives, nonetheless. He recognized only half of the mutual conflict- there is no peace or courage in that.
And on a personal note, in 2013 when I had major surgery for a stomach cancer I remained in the hospital in semi-isolation for eight days. During that time ministering angels came to me. First, Joseph Cudjoe, the head of an African family whom we have worshiped with for 17 years, came to the hospital just before my surgery. As an elder in our church, he joined Pastor Judy and her sister Jill, who nursed me through the difficult first nights, in healing prayer. Then my primary Doctor Teresa Sievers also a member of our faith community, came and sat with me ministering through the entire night. When she was brutally killed by friends of her husband in 2015 our entire community was in mourning and shock. We wished that she had had a ministering angel, but if she did, it was not of this violent world. After those first nights, it was really the CNA’s who tended most to me. In particular there was a CNA,a woman from Haiti whose joy and kindness overwhelmed me and another CNA, a gentle and competent Orthodox Jewish American man, who talked with me about God and Israel. In my earlier days I took a Zionist tour of Israel and we had much to share. These were my good Samaritans.
Thanks be to God for all the good Samaritans in our lives, and may we be courageous enough to truly be good to others-to live and remember in our every act the Law of Love and Justice, for it is one.
Amen. Rev. Dr. Judy Lee, Co-Pastor Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community in Fort Myers
This is the homily of Rev. Beverly Bingle with thanksgiving to her for her inspiration:
“Scripture scholars agree that Jesus
actually spoke today‘s parable of the Good Samaritan,
or something very much like it.
They call the parable itself “a classic example
of the provocative public speech of Jesus the preacher.”
But they also say that Luke
created the dialogue around the parable,
reasoning that the dialogue asks two questions
that are different from the teaching of the parable itself.
Those two questions
are what I’m used to hearing about this passage:
“Who is my neighbor?” and “Which one acted like a neighbor?”
But the parable itself leads us to ask this question:
“From what quarter can I expect help
when I have been robbed, beaten, and left for dead?”
If I’m the one in need of help,
who do I think will step up and be a neighbor to me?
Phyllis is one.
Whenever I have to go out of town overnight,
she tends my chickens and keeps watch on the house.
Then there’s Carrie and her family, across the street from me.
They’ve learned how to herd chickens
from those times the mail carrier or meter reader
has left the gate open.
Down at Claver House George and John and Tina and Shirley
get worried and phone me if I don’t show up for breakfast.
And you, the members of our Holy Spirit Catholic Community,
tend me every time you see me struggling—
like when I was hobbling around on crutches last spring.
I am surrounded by Good Samaritans,
people who help me instinctively
because they have formed themselves
into compassionate human beings.
So there are people around me who I expect will help me.
But who would I not expect help from?
Jesus’ audience for this parable would have thought
that the beat-up and bleeding man in the ditch was a Jew.
They would have expected the priest and the Levite to help him.
But they didn’t.
They would not have expected the hated Samaritan to help him.
But he did.
And he went way beyond that,
reaching out with boundless compassion and resources
to bring help and healing.
Would I expect a Muslim to help me? Or not?
A Mexican immigrant?
A homeless person?
My answer will show what I think of other people.
It will lay bare my acceptance of some and my rejection of others.
We all want to become the kind of person
who will be expected to be a neighbor to anyone in need.
The only way to do that
is to practice compassion in ordinary, everyday life.
When we decide to follow Jesus, it’s a process.
We decide to reflect and pray and study and act
in ways that will form us into a person of virtue.
If we think people who are different from us—
in race or ethnicity or religion
or gender or political persuasion—
would not be expected to help us in a crisis,
that’s a sign that we need to change.
Toledo janitor Karen Loudermill, taking a break from work,
saw a young girl walking alone on the street
in the middle of the night.
Karen didn’t hesitate to get involved.
She didn’t worry about getting back to work on time.
She didn’t wonder if the girl was on drugs, or mentally ill,
or dangerous in some way.
She didn’t think about what could happen to her.
Karen walked over and started the conversation
that uncovered serious mistreatment
in the home where the girl had been kept a prisoner.
D.C. government worker Larry Skutnik,
caught in a traffic jam on a bridge over the Potomac
as he headed home,
got out of his car
and saw that a plane had crashed into the river.
Larry watched as a helicopter rescued two of the three people
hanging on to the tail of the plane.
When he saw the third starting to go under,
he took off his shoes and jacket, dived into the freezing water,
and brought the woman to the shore.
Larry’s comment: “I reacted instinctively, that’s all.”
What made Karen and Larry take those heroic actions?
What made them risk danger to help a stranger?
What gave them that instinct for compassion?
That kind of virtue comes from how they had learned to be
in the ordinary times,
not from extraordinary circumstances.
They are ordinary people
who learned compassion
to the point that they didn’t even think about themselves
when they saw another human being in need.
The crisis didn’t create their character.
It revealed it.
Social psychologists who study bystander apathy
identify three things a person uses
to decide whether to do something in an emergency:
whether or not they feel the person is deserving of help;
whether they have competence to help;
and what relationship they have with the victim.
As Christians—and as Americans—
we say we believe that all people are equal
and therefore equally deserving of help.
We believe that everyone is a child of God, a brother or sister to us.
That means that we have the same relationship
with any and every victim.
And that means that we have a responsibility
to develop habits of compassion
that will cause us to act instinctively
to help whenever we can.
We can’t hesitate because the person isn’t like us,
or because we don’t know who they are,
or because we aren’t EMTs.
When Jesus says
that the law is summed up as love God and love neighbor,
it sounds easy…
but it’s the journey of a lifetime.
Holy Spirit Catholic Community
Saturdays at 4:30 p.m./Sundays at 5:30 p.m.
at 3925 West Central Avenue (Washington Church)
Rev. Dr. Bev Bingle, Pastor
Mailing address: 3156 Doyle Street, Toledo, OH 43608-2006