Glory to Jesus Christ!
My friends: It goes without saying, but we need to say it anyway, because we need to be reminded of the fact, that pride and self-exaltation, self-aggrandizement, are deadly to virtue.
Pride makes those of us who suffer from it pitiable in the sight of God. The scriptures tell us: the Lord resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.
Self-exaltation by itself is sufficient to make us squander a whole wealth of virtues. Because it causes us to seek our own excellence, it will compel us to endure pain and labour, but then keeps us from enjoying the fruits of our labours. For the prideful person labours in vain because the prideful person can never be satisfied. We look for satisfaction within ourselves, blind to the fact that we can never be truly satisfied in ourselves, because only perfection can bring true satisfaction – and we are none of us perfect. Only in transcendent perfection – found in God alone – will we find true satisfaction, true rest, true completion.
In the Gospel, we hear the well-known parable of the Good Samaritan. Our Lord tells this parable in response to a question from a lawyer, doctor of the mosaic Law. The lawyer in the Gospel was possessed by pride; he sought a certain satisfaction in trying to get one over on the Lord Himself. The lawyer thought to trap the Lord, trying to lure Him into commanding something contrary to the Law. He asks the Lord: Master, what must I do to possess eternal life?
Our Lord refers him right back to the Law, at one and the same time fending off his attack and exposing the lawyer as one who thinks himself to be virtuous but is not. The Lord asks the lawyer to answer Him a question: 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.”
And the Lord said that the lawyer had answered rightly. 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 eternal life.
Having failed to trip the Lord up, but still wishing to justify himself, perhaps build himself back up a bit, the lawyer then asked, “Who is my neighbour?” And this actually is a proper question.
Our Lord then shows by means of the parable of the Good Samaritan that a neighbour is anyone capable of showing mercy, and more, a neighbour is also anyone who is in need of help. He shows us that, in fact, each and every human being may be called a neighbour, for we are all of us in our very nature endowed with the free will necessary to show mercy, and we are also in our very nature needing help and assistance. This is a nature which 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.
And on his way, he fell among thieves, the demons, and, indeed, his own disordered passions who stripped man himself, stripped humanity, robbing him of the garment of grace, and inflicting on him the wounds of sin.
And we see that human nature then is left half dead – half dead – for the body is mortal, but the soul remains immortal; thus, half of man fell into death and corruption. But the nature of man is not left utterly abandoned; it has the hope of obtaining salvation in Christ, and therefore was not completely dead, but was still was gravely, gravely wounded and broken.
And we hear 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.
And such is our Lord, Himself called a “Samaritan” at times by His enemies, it is He Who comes to us. He comes not as a passer-by, not as one who has more important things to attend to somewhere down the road.
Like the Good Samaritan in the parable, immediately the Lord binds up our wounds. He pours on oil and wine, the words of His teachings and the soothing and cleansing action of His grace. And setting us upon his own beast, He brings us to an inn and takes care of us.
For the inn is the Church of Christ. The place of the innkeeper is held by every apostle, teacher and pastor, and indeed every Christian 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.
And the Lord says: Whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee.
For it is not enough that one simply possess the two pence of the two testaments. Rather, we must work with them and in them, giving of ourselves 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.
Having said all this, the Lord then asks the lawyer: Which now of these three, (that is, among the priest, the Levite, and the Samaritan) Which 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 our Lord plainly teaches us, quite simply, that we should be like Him. We should show compassion and kindness and mercy to our fellow human beings. Every one of us by freely exercised mercy ought to make ourselves neighbours to all those in need, and we ought to take care of each other, of every one, whether they are friends or strangers, allies or enemies, good or bad. All who are in need are therefore neighbours of those who are merciful.
My friends, as we hear in the Holy Liturgy, let us love one another that with one mind we may confess the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Let us love our neighbours, as we have been loved by God. Let us be helpers to each other in our need. Let us, in a word, be neighbours in the image of the Good Samaritan, which is none other than the image of our Lord Jesus Christ Himself.