A New Kind of Holiness

View the readings for this Sunday.

Sunday, July 14, 2019, Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Dt 30:10-14
•Ps 69:14, 17, 30-31, 33-34, 36, 37
•Lk 10:25-37

By Marc Massery
Holiness is not always what we think it should be.

In the Gospel reading this Sunday, standing before a crowd of pious Jews, Jesus challenges ancient prejudices by framing a common enemy, a Samaritan, as the hero of His parable.

Two Pass By
We all remember this timeless tale. Traveling on a road from Jerusalem to Jericho, a Jew gets robbed and beaten by brigands. A priest walks by - a fellow Jew. Surely, he would come to the aid of this helpless, half-dead man on the side of the road. But he passes by. According to Scripture scholar William Barclay, "No doubt he was remembering that he who touched a dead man was unclean for seven days."

Then a Levite - yet another Jew - comes along. However, like the priest, he also passes by without helping. According to Barclay, bandits often used decoys to lure unsuspecting travelers so they could ambush and steal from them. This Levite, therefore, may have been thinking he was doing the right thing by avoiding potential danger.

Regardless of why these men in Christ's story might have passed by without helping, clearly, they put other priorities ahead of their call to love and serve one another by coming to this injured man's rescue.

Some Area of Compassion
Next, Jesus says that a Samaritan comes by. At first mention, the Jews listening to the story might have assumed that this Samaritan was one of the original criminals returning to finish the job. After all, the Jews hated the Samaritans because they considered them unorthodox and unholy. Long ago, they had violated God's commands, as interpreted by mainstream Jews, and intermarried with Gentiles.

Though this Samaritan is not orthodox by first century Jewish standards, and though he knows the Jews see him as an outcast, he has better intentions than the two Jews that pass by before him. Through this Samaritan, Jesus reveals a new idea of holiness. Despite the taboo of touching something potentially unclean, despite the possibility that this could all be a trap, despite the bitter rivalry between Jews and Samaritans, this charitable man lets his love and compassion, not self-righteousness and fear, guide his actions.

"Moved with compassion at the sight," this Samaritan not only treats and bandages the injured Jew, but he brings him to an inn and finances his stay until he becomes well (see Lk 10:33-35). The Samaritan goes above and beyond to help his enemy.

By letting love lead, the Samaritan proves an important truth about Jesus Christ and His Gospel. He demonstrates that true holiness demands loving our neighbors in both word and deed, despite fear of harm, despite race, despite cultural taboos, and despite certain religious practices at times.

As Jesus says to St. Faustina in her Diary, "I demand from you deeds of mercy, which are to arise out of love for Me. You are to show mercy to your neighbors always and everywhere. You must not shrink from this or try to excuse or absolve yourself from it" (742).

We need to do more than merely believe in Christ. We need to do more than follow the basic rules of the faith. We need to let faith lead us into going out of our way, going out of our comfort zones, to show one another mercy and compassion. When we let love lead us, when we allow our faith in the Lord to help us overcome our self-righteousness, fears, and prejudices, we'll begin to live more and more as Christ intended.

View the next Sunday Scripture Preview.

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