My dear friends in our Lord: Glory to Jesus Christ!
It goes without saying, but we should say it anyway, that pride and self-exaltation are gravely harmful, even deadly, to virtue. Because we, who are nothing, but who fancy ourselves to be something, very easily deceive ourselves, and in every case does deceit hinder virtue.
Pride makes the person who suffers from it pitiable in the sight of God. For, as the scriptures attest, the Lord resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.
Pride is the cause of countless evils. Those who possess pride are deprived of God’s help, and they fall into every disordered passion. Self-exaltation by itself is sufficient to squander a whole wealth of virtues, not only because it urges men towards vice, but because it often also accompanies material virtue, material strength, material superiority, it causes us great damage. It will compel us to endure pain and labour, but then keeps us from receiving the fruits of our labours. For the prideful man labours in vain; he takes on earthly virtue’s sweat and striving, but he is far from the glory and the help which are from above.
The lawyer in today’s Gospel reading was possessed by pride; he approached the Lord with ﬂattery, and made bold to tempt Him, as we heard. The lawyer thought to trap the Lord with a snare, luring Him into commanding something completely contrary to the Law. He said to Him, What shall I do, Master, to inherit the eternal life of which you teach and preach to the people?
Understanding the lawyer’s treachery, the Saviour refers him back to the Law, at one and the same time fending off his attack and exposing him as one who thinks himself to be virtuous but is not. The Lord asks the lawyer to answer which is the greatest commandment written in the Law, and how he reads the greatest commandments of the Law.
And the lawyer answering said, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind, and thy neighbour as thyself.”
The Law shows that man ought to commend himself to God entirely and in everything, and to direct all the powers of his very being – heart, soul, strength, mind – to the love of God. And the Law further commands to love one’s neighbour as oneself.
And the Lord said that the lawyer had answered rightly, in that he had put forward the two great commandments, which depend upon one another; in other words, these two commandments are connected. For as our Lord says elsewhere in the Gospels, “On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets;” that is, all the Law and the Prophets have these two commandments as their root, cause and content.
And since the Lawyer had, in fact, answered rightly, our Lord tells him simply to do that which he had professed, and he would have the eternal life which is lived by the righteous who have kept these commandments.
When the lawyer failed in his attempt at entrapment, wishing to justify himself, he asked Christ, “Who is my neighbour?” And this is a proper question.
Our Lord then shows by means of the well-known parable of the Good Samaritan that a neighbour is one who is in need of help. Our Lord teaches us to be prepared to show mercy and to strive to be a true neighbour to all those who need our help. He teaches us about true human kindness, which are reflections of our Lord’s own divine economy of grace and of His love towards mankind. And He shows us that, in fact, each and every human may be called a neighbour, for we are in our very nature needing of help and of assistance, a nature which we each of us share.
And so it is that in the “certain man” of the parable, we see human nature itself, going down from Jerusalem. Human nature, treading along the path of the life of this world, going down from Jerusalem, that is, from a quiet and peaceful life; for the name “Jerusalem” is commonly interpreted as “city or foundation of peace.” Jerusalem. And where was it going? To Jericho, a place in a low-lying valley, oppressed by heat; that is, to a passionate way of life.
And on his way there, he fell among thieves, the demons, who stripped man himself, robbed him of the raiment of virtue, and then inflicted wounds upon him, that is, sins. For the demons first strip us of every good thought and of divine protection, and then they inflict wounds, that is, sins.
Human nature was left half dead – half dead – inasmuch as the soul is immortal, but the body is mortal; thus, half of man fell into death and corruption. But the nature of man was not utterly abandoned; it had the hope of obtaining salvation in Christ, and therefore was not completely dead, but was nevertheless gravely and sorely wounded.
And we heard of the priest and the Levite who, seeing the man, passed him by. By the priest and the Levite our Lord signifies the Law and the Prophets. The priest and the Levite may indeed have pitied the man, and might have given thought to how they could restore him to health, but they were overcome by the extent of the wounds, and they turned away. The Law and the Prophets served not as ends in themselves, but to serve as notices of the coming of the One Who could, in fact, save. This is what the passing by means. The Law and the Prophets came and approached the man as he lay there, but being unable to heal him, they departed.
But our Lord Jesus, Who, it might be remembered, was Himself called a Samaritan by the envious Jews, came on His journey, and immediately comes to the man who fell among robbers. It is phrased as if the Samaritan needed no time for deliberation, but rather it is as if – perhaps – his very purpose at that time for the journey was to find the poor man at the side of the road.
And so, in fact, it is for our Lord. He comes to visit us, not as a passer-by, not disdainfully, not as one engaged in some other business, or who has more important things to attend to somewhere down the road. Our Lord assumed our very nature in an ineffable manner, becoming like unto us, dwelling among us, and conversing with us in a very real way; He came as God and the Lover of mankind, for the sake of His immeasurable mercy. He came to take care of us.
Immediately He bound up man’s wounds, not letting any malady have free rein, but restraining it. He poured on the wounds oil and wine, the words of His teachings; oil is that which gently calls us by the promise of good things, while wine is that which rouses us to virtue through cleansing and disinfecting action. And then setting him on his own beast, He brought him to an inn and took care of him.
Before he brought him to the inn, he bound up his wounds. The inn is the Church of Christ. For when the Church was founded, the inn was opened; that is, when faith grew up among all the nations, then the gift of the Holy Spirit also was given, and the grace of God was spread abroad, as we learn from the Acts of the Apostles. The place of the innkeeper is held by every apostle, teacher and pastor, to whom the Lord has given two pence, that is, the two Testaments, the Old and the New, both of which bear the image of the same King, being themselves the words of the same God. Ascending into heaven, the Lord left these two coins to the Apostles, and in later years to the pastors and teachers.
And he says: And whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee.
For the Apostles did indeed spend much of themselves, labouring greatly and sowing the doctrine of Christ everywhere; and the teachers of later ages have also given much of themselves in explaining the Old and New Testaments; for this they will receive their recompense when the Lord returns, that is, at His Second Coming. For it is not enough that they merely possess the two pence of the testaments. Rather, they must work with them and in them, giving of themselves for the care of all who are brought to the inn of the holy Church, brought by none other than our Lord Himself who has bound up all wounds and has placed us in the care of the inn of grace, until He returns.
And the Lord said to the lawyer: Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves? And he said, He that showed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise.”
In these words the Saviour plainly teaches us that we should be like Him. We should show our compassion and kindness to our fellow human beings. Every one of us ought to make ourself a neighbour to those in need of assistance, and to take care of each one charitably, whether he be fellow-countryman or foreigner, friend or loved one, ally or enemy, whether he be bad or good. All are in need, and therefore all are a neighbour.
If we find our neighbour wasting away from hunger and thirst, or fallen into misfortune or poverty; or if we see him suffering from wounds, or lying half dead from the burden of illness physical or spiritual, let us not pass by like the priest, nor let us ignore him like the Levite, but like the Samaritan let us have mercy and compassion. Let us look upon him with a truly merciful eye; let us incline our ear and be attentive to his voice. Let us pour out upon him the wine of consolation; let us anoint him with the oil of philanthropy; let us bind up his wounds with words of comfort. Let us put him on our own beast, that is, our own possessions and our ability to assist.
With as much strength as we have let us ease the misfortune of our neighbour. Let us not worry ourselves more than our strength allows in comforting him, but let us bring him to the inn, to those who can offer him a hand of consolation.
Even if we feel we have little to offer, we can be great cooperators in the works of mercy through prayer. Let us every day ask God to mitigate the suffering of our neighbour. Let us encourage our fellow workers and helpers in their benignity towards a neighbour in need.
Let each one of us look with boldness on the words of our Lord when He says: When I come again I will repay thee. Let us trust these words, for they are truth spoken by Him who is Himself the Truth.
Thus we become instruments of salvation for one another; thus also true love is observed, strengthened and preserved, so that we might enjoy God’s blessings, not alone and by ourselves, but in an eagerness to provide for our neighbour. Thus do we also give them a stimulus to virtue and make them agents of the soul’s salvation.
My friends, let us love our neighbours, as we have been loved by God. Let us be kind to our neighbours, and invite them to walk along the path of salvation, so that we may be their helpers in the most doubtful moments of life and guides on the way of virtue, in the image of the Good Samaritan, in the image of Christ Jesus our Lord.