14 July 201915 Ordinary Time

Homily from Father James Gilhooley
15 Ordinary Time
Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Cycle C
Luke 10, 25-37

"Food baskets at Christmas, toys at Christmas," writes a bishop, "are good as far as they go, but they don't go very far."

The parable of the Good Samaritan has lost its original impact. It was carefully crafted by the Christ to upset its audience and to challenge its listeners. Our Leader was arguably the best needler in the business. He was a Dr Feelgood only to those who found themselves in some kind of trouble.

Why don't we attempt to robe this famous parable in contemporary dress? A man from New York City decided to spend a few days of R & R in a posh inn in Westchester. He picked up a harmless looking hitchhiker. That gentleman stabbed him. Then the mugger drove off in his car after leaving his benefactor on the side of the road.

I passed by. I was rushing to say the 10 AM Mass in Scarsdale. I saw the man frantically waving me down. I wanted to stop, but I was running late. I said a short prayer for the man, threw him a quick blessing, and gassed my car.

The next person to pass was a nun. She was rushing to Boston to give a talk at a convention for the homeless. Her talk was only half completed. Anyhow she knew a state trooper would find the poor wretch in short order. She moved on after devoutly reciting a Hail Mary and Our Father.

The next one to see the poor fellow now bleeding badly was your honorable self. You were rushing with your family to your weekend home in Rhode Island. You chose not to get involved. You realized that it might take you hours to prove to the cops that you were not the attacker. You resolved to send an angry letter to the governor to get more state troopers on the highways - especially, the ones you drive on. Besides, the air conditioner was not working in your car. And you were anxious to get out of your wet clothes and jump into a dry martini.

Then comes a black truck driver. He was running hours late. His rig was loaded with perishables. As soon as he spotted the wounded man, he pulled his 18 wheeler up on the grass. He got out his first aid kit, tied some tourniquets to stop the blood, and drove the fellow to the nearest hospital.

The officious nurse demanded the unconscious man's Major Medical and Social Security cards. The sweating driver, carrying the driver, said, "His ID was stolen. If he can't pay, I will pay on the return trip. Just show me where I sign. I've got to get moving."

In its new clothing as the Parable of the Good African-American, one better appreciates the power and force of the tale the first time around. All of us - priests, nuns, and you - are supposed to feel put upon. And, if we work according to the plan of Jesus, we will change our priorities. We will become participants with people in trouble and cease being merely onlookers. Christ is saying to us, "Stop talking. Just do it." Christianity is not a spectator sport.

But this is only the small picture. We must also be concerned with that famous big picture that everyone talks about. In the United States, millions are being deprived as I speak. One out of four of our children live in poverty. Can you imagine the rage we would feel if 25% of us were unemployed? Tonight 100,000 homeless kids will have to find a place to sleep. Thirty million of our fellow citizens are illiterate. About thirty five million have no health insurance. Another sixty million are underinsured.

Michael Parenti in Democracy for the Few advises us of the other half of the picture. "Approximately 1.6 percent of the (US) population own 80 percent of all capital stock, 100 percent of all state and municipal bonds, and 88.% percent of all corporate bonds."

Dr Martin Luther King, Jr advises wisely that our society does need restructuring. And each of us should be pushing the burden up the hill and make sure it gets down the other side. Again our bishop speaks, "Direct assistance is good. Tackling the causes is better."

Let's do get hopping on this crusade as soon as possible. But, as the Lord would remind each of us with no trace of a smile, let's begin first by changing the person whom we admire with such delight in our bathroom mirror each morning.

Homily from Father Joseph Pellegrino
15 Ordinary Time
Fifteenth Sunday: The Good Samaritan Next Door

The three ladies had been friends since high school. They all grew up in the same Church and were pretty active as Teens. Eleanor married Fred and had three children, one was still in college, the other two were on their own. Sally married Tom. Their two were in high school. Phyllis married Sam. They had two in college and one in the service. Eleanor and Fred, Sally and Tom, and Phyllis and Sam; they remained friends....to a degree. Time and children kept them busy. Sally and Tom, particularly, weren't around all that much. The other two couples remained very close. All three families went to the same Church, but Sally and her family were not as involved as Eleanor's and Phyllis'. Sally never had the time. Eleanor and Phyllis were concerned. They wondered if she and her family were even coming to Mass regularly. They didn't want to confront her, but they did pray for her and Tom to return to a more fervent practice of the faith.

And then Fred, Eleanor's husband, became ill. He came home from work, got out of his car, and passed out. It was a brain tumor. The doctors said that it was inoperable. The only hope was chemotherapy, but the chances of that working were slim. Naturally, all of their friends were concerned, including Phyllis and Sam, Sally and Tom. But as the months wore on, Eleanor noticed something. Because she had to stay home with Fred, she saw less and less of Phyllis. And she never saw Sam anymore. But Sally and Tom were always there in her home. Tom made it a point to stop by every evening and jaw with Fred, maybe watch some sports together, just be buds. Sally was always showing up when Eleanor needed her, even when she didn't ask her to come by. When hospice said that they would send in a respite care volunteer, Eleanor thanked them but replied that her friends Sally and Tom made sure she had a break every day. A passing thought came to Eleanor that she wished she could have said the same about Phyllis and Sam.

The sickness ran its course, and Fred passed away. After the funeral, after the first months of intense grief, Eleanor started thinking about what she had experienced with her friends. It was then that she started praying for Phyllis and Sam's conversion.

The Parable of the Good Samaritan is a parable of living the Law of the Lord. That is how the parable begins. That is what the scholar of the Law asked Jesus to comment on. First he asked him what he had to do to inherit eternal life. When Jesus asked him what the Law said, the scholar quoted Deuteronomy and Leviticus, "Love the Lord with your whole heart, and being, and strength and mind, and love your neighbor as yourself." The parable comes after the scholar asked who was a neighbor.

We all know the parable very well, perhaps too well. We know it so well that we forget that it is pointed towards us. The parable is about living the Way of Jesus, the Law of Love. The Samaritan's were seen by the Jews as outside of the Law. They had intermarried with pagans. Their practice of the Jewish faith was not as pure as the Jews. They didn't travel to Jerusalem for the festivals, believing that they could worship God in other places. To the Jews, Samaritans were sinners because they were not as fervent in their faith as the Jews were. The Jews were like Eleanor and Fred, and Phyllis and Tom, who were all certain that they were following the Way of the Lord. The Samaritans were like Sally and Tom, who did not appear as fervent.

The Good Samaritan knew when God called him into action. He knew that he could not be a follower of the Lord and walk by that man who needed his help. Sure the Levite and the Temple priest should have gone into action. Supposedly, they were the strong followers of God. But that wasn't an argument for the Samaritan to ignore the man on the side of the road. He did what the Law of God demanded that he do. And sure Sally and Tom could have said that Eleanor's other, fervent friends, particularly Phyllis and Sam, should be changing their lives to help care for Fred, but that wasn't an argument for their not fulfilling what the Law of Love was demanding of them.

The Parable of the Good Samaritan is real in our lives. It is present whenever we are confronted with demands on our time and resources to care for someone who needs us. It is particularly present whenever we are tempted to hide behind worship as a justification for refusing to answer the call to charity. "I am really busy at Church," we say, "God certainly doesn't expect more of me." But He does.

In Jeremiah 31:33 we hear the prophesy, "My law will be written upon their hearts." We know when we are being called to fulfill the Law of the Lord. We know that Jesus identifies with those who are hurting. There is no excuse, no justification, for our walking by those who need our help, who need His Love.

Your son, your daughter needs extra time. He or she is going through a challenging time, perhaps even a time of crisis. You are emotionally sapped when you try to point him or her in the right direction. But you go to Church. You've been good parents. So why should you have to keep parenting even when the children should be old enough to know what they should do? And so, you walk by the one on the side of the road, the one who actually lived or even lives in your own house.

Or perhaps on the opposite side, you feel you didn't do all you should have done to instill the faith in your children. You didn't put up as much of a fight as you should have when children announced that since they were confirmed, they wouldn't be going to Church anymore. You could have done better in other areas of instilling the faith, but you didn't. Still, when your children need you, even when they don't realize their need, they can always count on your support, encouragement and love. Maybe most of us here have been Good Samaritans, yes we could have been better at fulfilling prescripts, but we have actively practiced what is at the heart of the Law, Christian love.

The Parable of the Good Samaritan is far more than a pleasant biblical story told by Jesus Himself. The parable is an answer to the question: What must I do to inherit eternal life?

We have only to look into our hearts. We know what we must do.

Homily from Father Phil Bloom
* Available in Spanish - see Spanish Homilies
15 Ordinary Time
Pride Talks, Humility Walks

Bottom line: Jesus teaches how to overcome pride: by looking for a way to praise even our opponents - and by practical humility.

Recently I heard some good news about St. Mary of the Valley: Of the 170 plus parishes of our archdiocese in terms of marriages we are number five. Considering we are actually smaller than the average parish that is pretty good. Of course when I heard we are number five, I thought to myself, "I'd like to be number one!"

This does relate to the theme of my homily but before stating the theme, let's look at today's Gospel. Jesus, you remember, is on the road to Jerusalem. He encounters some interesting people and gives powerful teaching. Today a scholar of the law - a scribe - approaches Jesus. In the Gospels scribes are uniformly negative. Why? Well, their learning rather than bringing them close to God and the people, they use their knowledge to look down on others. Remember the definition of pride last week: "that smug feeling of superiority, thinking that other people are stupid in comparison to me."

Now, I was being a little playful about wanting to be number one in marriages, but I will admit there's plenty of pride in me. I can start obsessing on how I'm doing in relation to other priests. Instead of simply doing my job best I can and leaving the rest to the Lord, I feel this weird sense of competition.

We can see something similar in relation to money. We want money to take care of basic needs and to help others. Money, however, can become a source pride and superiority. Back in the 1940's C.S. Lewis wrote: "What is it that makes a man with $10,000 a year anxious to get $20,000 a year? It is not the greed for more pleasure. $10,000 will give all the luxuries that any man can really enjoy. It is Pride - the wish to be richer than some other rich man, and (still more) the wish for power."Ten thousand could buy a lot more in 1940 than today so you get the idea.

It's true that pride can motivate a person to work hard, strive for excellence and benefit others. Still pride can become destructive. Again, C.S. Lewis.: "each person's pride is in competition with every one else's pride." Pride often leads to put downs, bullying and even violence.

In today's Gospel the scholar of the law - the scribe - embodies pride. He studied hard, for sure, and he has knowledge which could greatly help others. Instead he uses his knowledge to show himself superior, more clever than anyone else - including Jesus.

Big mistake. Jesus has no need to prove anything so to the scribe's question, Jesus responds with a question: You ask what to do to inherit life, well, tell me, what is written in the law? The scribe quotes the commands about love: love of God and love of neighbor. When Jesus tells him then to do it, the scribe wants to justify himself. So he asks, who is my neighbor?

Here's where it gets interesting. Jesus offers a parable for overcoming pride. It begins with disaster overtaking a man journeying from Jerusalem to Jericho. Jerusalem, Mount Zion, is the high point, Jericho the low point, over 3000 feet lower than Jerusalem. It would be like the descent from Snoqualmie Pass to Seattle. In the Bible Jericho represents the world, the fallen world. On that road to Jericho robbers attack the unfortunate man. They steal his possession including all his clothes. They beat him so badly he appears dead.

A priest and levite come by. Like the scribe they know the law. They can talk about love of neighbor. Yet they are reluctant to investigate if the man is dead or not. Besides they have important things to do. They may have plans to reform their nation.

Then comes a Samaritan. Remember Jesus had just passed through Samaria. He had personally felt the hostility between Samaritans and Jews. To speak favorably about a Samaritan would be like a Democrat praising a Republican - or vice versa. Jesus portrays the Samaritan as someone with practical humility. To care for the unfortunate man, the Samaritan uses his own resources: oil, wine and mule. He uses his own money and time. He gets help from others - in this case the innkeeper. And he promises follow up. That's practical humility. Pride talks; humility walks. Someone said that Leo Moore didn't did just talk the talk, he walked the walk. Pride talks, humility walks.

Now, we're not done with pride. Next week we will see two sisters, both beautiful and good. Jesus, however, will gently chide one of the sisters for getting too involved in herself and what she is doing - rather than see the big picture.

For today I ask you take this home: The word pride can have a good sense: we can take pride in others by genuinely admiring them. Still we must recognize that pride in the sense of smug superiority can do damage. It sets people against each other. Jesus teaches how to overcome pride: by looking for a way to praise even our opponents - and by practical humility. That means sharing resources and time, by getting others involved and following up. To put it simply: Pride talks, humility walks. Amen.

Homily from Saint Vincent Archabbey, Latrobe, Pa
Saint Vincent Archabbey
15 Ordinary Time

Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
15 Ordinary Time
Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Today for our Gospel reading we are given the story of the Good Samaritan. Jesus tells the young man who inquires how he might be justified that he should love God and his neighbour. I don't know if he was trying to be smart or what but the young man asks, 'Who is my neighbour?' This gives Jesus the opportunity to tell the parable about the Good Samaritan.

This parable is unique to the Gospel of Luke and it is most interesting. The man is beaten up and robbed by brigands. We are not told that he was a Jew but it is a fair presumption that he was and so we would expect that his co-religionists would help him especially given the fact that both the priest and the Levite had religious functions.

The Levites were, of course, from the tribe of Levi and they were given certain duties in the Temple such as singing, supporting the liturgy, acting as guards and performing other duties. As a result, they were financially supported by other Jews who were obliged to give them a tithe. The priests were also Levites but ones who were directly descended from the very first priest, Aaron. Their task was to perform the sacrifices in the Temple. Although their liturgical function died out with the destruction of the Temple by the Romans in AD70 they are still around. You can identify them because today they all have the surname Cohen.

It is interesting to note that both the man who was attacked as well as the priest and the Levite were going down from the city of Jerusalem which you will know was at the top of a long hill. The priest and the Levite had therefore completed their period of duty in the Temple and were returning home. One would ordinarily assume that after serving God in the Temple which necessarily involved prayer they would be in the right frame of mind to help their fellow man but seemingly this is not necessarily so.

I used to be parish priest in a Church with a car park. As there were many masses the car park was often crowded with vehicles going in and out. Frequently parishioners got blocked in by other thoughtless drivers and often got very irate, sometimes expressing their annoyance in quite inappropriate ways. I would have thought that spending an hour at mass and in prayer ought to have made them a bit more understanding, but clearly this was not always the case.

We need to be on our guard against this sort of thing. Coming to mass ought to make us better people. It should make us more patient and understanding. We should leave the Church thinking better of our fellow man. We ought to leave Church as politer and kinder and gentler human beings. The same goes for those thoughtless parkers who blocked the other people in. They ought to have realised the consequences of their inconsiderateness.

In his parable Jesus stresses that the man who was filled with care and concern for the injured man was a Samaritan. The Jews regarded the Samaritans as a heretical sect. The rift between these two groups arose at the time of the Babylonian Captivity. The Samaritans who were descended from the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh were not taken into captivity and claim that they preserved the ancient religion of Israel. The rest of the Jews who were taken to Babylon by King Nebuchadnezzar were forced to adapt their religion to their new circumstances. After seventy years when they returned to Israel they found that they had little in common with the Samaritans and shunned them.

As is often the case, when two groups are very closely related there can be intense hatred between them. Ironically, the Jews were probably less hostile towards out-and-out pagans than they were to their Samaritan brothers. So, by telling the young man that it was a Samaritan who helped the poor victim Jesus was making a very strong point. Interestingly, Jesus gives no further explanation. He just asks who was the better neighbour and the young man answers that it was the one who took pity on him. Then without saying another word Jesus moves on to the house of Martha and Mary. He leaves the young man to reflect on the parable and to make his own decisions as to how to conduct his life.

The true Christian is someone who is always looking out for his neighbour. But we have to be careful here, we ought not to overcrowd our neighbours or place heavy expectations on them. We ought to be charitable and kind but still leave them plenty of space and the freedom to make their own choices. There is a type of kindness that can be stifling and we ought to be on our guard against anything like that. We need to respect the autonomy of others and show them a healthy respect. Anything that is condescending or patronising is inappropriate.

There are a lot of people who do a lot to support charities; maybe they give to Aid Agencies or to the blind or to cancer research or the Lifeboats. Maybe they give a few hours of their time to work in a charity shop or something similar. And this is very good but the only problem is that it at one remove. We are working through intermediaries, through agencies or organisations who are doing the direct help.

It is no good signing a banker's order for £10 a month to some charity if you ignore the actual needs of real people on your own doorstep. We have to be very careful though when we decide to help other people directly because although they may not be well-off, they still have their own pride and often don't want to be seen as a charity case. Often what people need is not money but kindness and practical assistance. An old lady might need someone to help her with her shopping. Someone else might just need cheering up. A big family might need someone to listen to the children reading. The school might need someone to give practical assistance in lessons or with fundraising.

The Good Samaritan bandaged the poor man's wounds and got him to an inn where he could be looked after. The Good Samaritan realised that we are all connected and that if I help you today you will most likely need to help me the day after or at some more distant point in the future. What is needed is care and concern, what is needed is goodness and kindness, what is needed is a true and authentic love for our fellow human beings.
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