07.10.2022 Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time


The Good Samaritan 1890 Vincent Van Gough

On May 8th 1889, exhausted, ill and out of control, Vincent Van Gogh committed himself to Saint Paul’s Psychiatric Asylum in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, a small hamlet in the south of France. A former Monastery, the Sanatorium was located in an area of cornfields, vineyards and olive trees. There Van Gogh was allowed two small adjoining cells with barred windows. One room he used as his bedroom, and the other was his tiny studio. While there, Van Gogh not only painted the surrounding area and the interior of the Asylum, he also copied paintings and drawings by other artists, making those paintings his own through modifications he made to the painting’s composition, the colours and, of course, the brush strokes.

One of the artists whose works Van Gogh copied and modified was the Dutch Gold Age painter Rembrandt van Rijn. The Good Samaritan by Rembrandt drew Van Gogh’s attention: in which a Samaritan man hoists a wounded man with a bandaged head onto a horse to be taken to an inn for recovery. When Van Gogh was admitted to the Sanitarium. After a psychotic break during the visit of fellow artist Paul Gauguin, Van Gogh was all but put out of the town. With the help of a couple of people, he eventually made his way to the Sanitarium where he copied and modified Delacroix’s painting of “The Good Samaritan”.

What has impressed me in all three paintings are the horses. We maybe do not appreciate how they help the Samaritan to carry out their act of charity. Although the ears in the Delacroix look more like a donkey. The beasts are patient and stand in still. Maybe a reminder to us that we can help others be Good Samaritans, or that we cannot always do acts of charity alone and this maybe can remind us that it is the guidance of the Holy Spirit which reveals what needs to be done as well as employing support which can help us be successful in going to the aid of another. I wonder if Van Gough was drawn to this story because he felt battered and bruised and in need of a Good Samaritan or two, where with the help of a couple of people he got into hospital for treatment.


Lectio Luke 10: 25-37

25“Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. ‘Teacher’, he said, ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ 26 He said to him, ‘What is written in the law? What do you read there?’ 27 He answered, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbour as yourself’. 28 And he said to him, ‘You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live’. 29But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbour?’ 30Jesus replied, ‘A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. 31Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. 34He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend’. 36Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?’ 37 He said, ‘The one who showed him mercy’. Jesus said to him, ‘Go and do likewise’”.

Meditatio

Context After Jesus had told his Disciples, “Blessed are the eyes which see the things that you see, for I tell you that many prophets and kings desired to see the things which you see, and didn’t see them, and to hear the things which you hear, and didn't hear them[1], a Lawyer appears who wants to see whether one who talks with such eloquence can answer a simple question. The training of the Scholar of the Law is in the Torah, the Jewish law. He has been trained in this way of argumentation by the question-answer format. Perhaps he is just anxious to test himself against this new rabbi. The Parable of Jesus on the other hand might have its roots in the Old Testament Book of Chronicles[2]. In that story, Samaritans rescued Judeans who had been defeated in battle, fed them, clothed them, anointed them, and brought them back to their home in Jericho -very much like the Samaritan will do for the traveller in the Parable of Jesus. The Inheritance An inheritance as a gift, the control of an inheritance is in the hands of the giver, not of the beneficiary. Out of his own goodness and initiative, God promised Israel that they would inherit the Promised Land[3]. Nothing did they do to deserve that promise. However, in the way that it is possible for a person to offend a benefactor and lose an inheritance, it is also possible to impress a benefactor to gain an inheritance. The Lawyer who represents to Jewish believer who considers himself saved by his own self-righteousness, is asking what he needs to do in order to impress God and thus gain the inheritance of eternal life. The Lawyer asked his question, not to gain understanding, but to impress and gain advantage over Jesus[4].

The Fulfilment of the Commandment of Love The call of Jesus for love of God has its best commentary in the very Passion of Jesus, in his intimacy with God, and in his fidelity to God. On the other hand, his call for love of neighbour has its best commentary in the life of Jesus, the friend of tax collectors and sinners[5]. The Correct Answer Jesus could respond to the Lawyer by saying that salvation is not a matter of doing, but it is a matter of God’s grace. However, He says, “Do this, and you will live” and “Go and do likewise”, thus reinforcing the understanding that actions are important to his salvation. In fact, the Lawyer knows all too well the requirements of the Law. What Jesus tells him is what he knew all along, but he has only to do it, then he will live. The answer of Jesus commends him for answering well, but suggests that he is not doing what he knows that he must do. Who is my Neighbour? The rhetorical question is: ‘How can one obey the commandment until one knows not who one’s neighbour is?’ This is the kind of question that rabbis debate endlessly. Such debate easily deteriorates into useless discussions. On the surface, the Lawyer is asking who he must love. However, at a deeper level, he is asking Jesus to define the boundaries, so that he will know who he is not required to love. If he can determine who is his neighbour, he will also know who his neighbour is not. The answer of Jesus is ‘everyone is your neighbour’. The Parable We know nothing about the victim: We do not know if he is Jewish, Samaritan, or an alien. We know neither his purpose for visiting Jerusalem nor the nature of his business in Jericho. His clothes could have been a hint of his social or religious condition, but he was stripped and left him unidentifiable. The passers-by: Perhaps they are on their way to perform religious services. The Priest is “going down that road”, meaning in the direction of Jericho rather than Jerusalem[6] where Priests conduct their duties at the Temple for a period of time and then return home. Perhaps they prefer not to dirty their hands and clothes. Perhaps they fear that the victim is dead[7]. The Law prohibits a Priest from touching a dead body in unequivocal terms[8]. The Levite as well will become unclean if he touches a dead body, however the Law is less strict on this issue for him than for the Priest. Perhaps they are afraid, fearing that the man has been placed there to attempt an ambush. The three of them, the Priest, the Levite and the Samaritan, have reasons to be concerned for their safety. Whatever their reasons, the Parable highlights that “being good in the legalistic sense is not the same thing as loving God or loving one’s neighbour, things the Lawyer himself has just said were necessary for salvation”. And let us not forget that Jesus did not choose the Priest and Levite because they were the worst, but precisely because they were the best. If they were terrible people, the story would have lost its impact. The Samaritan(s) A Samaritan village only recently refused to receive Jesus[9]. Now, Jesus has the opportunity to get even, to downplay Samaritans and portray them as the evil character in a story that was going to be told and re-told through the ages. But He does the opposite. The first redemptive action of the Samaritan is seeing the wounded man. He does not refuse to set his eyes on him, he sees a person in need and feels his pain. Only then was he was moved to the “depths of his bowels” with compassion. He then accompanied his actions by treating the victim with oil and wine, the very elements used in Jewish worship. The Priest and Levite who handled oil and wine at the Temple, failed to use them to relieve human suffering along the road. The actions of the Samaritan finally, reverse those of the robbers: If they robbed the man, the Samaritan pays for him; if they left him to die, the Samaritan leaves him in good hands; and if they abandoned him the Samaritan promised to return. Conclusion The Lawyer could not even bring himself to identify “the Samaritan” as his neighbour. Jesus leads him and us to define neighbour, not in terms of boundaries, but in terms of relationships and human need. “The question for a disciple of Jesus is not, ‘Who is my neighbour?’ but rather, ‘Am I neighbour to the person in need?’ The Samaritan did not think about any reward or gain. One who shows mercy in order to gain a reward would not be doing ‘likewise’ the Samaritan. Jesus is already doing likewise: Despised[10], even as the Samaritan is despised, Jesus nevertheless heals the sick and sacrifices himself to save sinners. He is the embodiment of the person that He calls us to be.

Oratio HYMN: Psalm 69 “Turn to the Lord in your need, and you will live. I pray to you, O LORD, for the time of your favour, O God! In your great kindness answer me with your constant help. Answer me, O LORD, for bounteous is your kindness: In your great mercy turn toward me. I am afflicted and in pain; let your saving help, O God, protect me. I will praise the name of God in song, and I will glorify him with thanksgiving. ‘See, you lowly ones, and be glad; you who seek God, may your hearts revive! For the LORD hears the poor, And his own who are in bonds he spurns not’. For God will save Zion and rebuild the cities of Judah. The descendants of his servants shall inherit it, and those who love his name shall inhabit it”.



Contemplatio

If I identify with the passers-by, I see that I too have urgent duties that will not permit delay. I too want not to get dirty. I too am afraid of stopping on a deserted road to help a stranger. I too find myself overwhelmed with the logistics of helping needy people. These are very real concerns, and I must acknowledge them as such.


In which way do I not love God with all my being?


In which way I do not love others as myself?


Whom do I exclude in my life as being “unworthy” of my love?


Do I also “pass by on the other side,” that is, do I fail to do the good that I can do?

 

[1] Luke 10: 23-24 [2] 2 Chronicles 28: 5-15 [3]Leviticus 20: 24: “But I have said to you: You shall inherit their land, and I will give it to you to possess, a land flowing with milk and honey. I am the Lord your God; I have separated you from the peoples”. [4] The question ‘What must I do to inherit eternal life?’ appears twice in the New Testament: In the story of Pentecost (Acts 2: 37) and in the story of the jailer at Philippi (Acts 16: 30). In both instances the answer is: ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ’. But here the answer is different because the Scribe used the question as a pretext to justify himself of not being a neighbour. [5] John Nolland, Australian Anglican priest and Bible scholar. [6] Jerusalem is located on a mountain at an elevation of more than 610 m. (2000 feet), and Jericho sits in the Rift Valley near the Dead Sea -several hundred feet below sea level. The road from Jerusalem to Jericho winds through rocky mountain terrain, losing roughly 3,000 feet of elevation in just 17 miles. [7] A Jew touching a dead human body is rendered unclean for seven days (Numbers 19:11) and must go through a cleansing ceremony on the third and seventh days lest he be cut off from the assembly (Numbers 19:13, 20). [8] Leviticus 21: 11: “[The Priest] Shall not go where there is a dead body; he shall not defile himself even for his father or mother”. [9] Luke 9: 53: “They did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem”. [10] Isaiah 53: 3: “He was despised and rejected by others; a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity; and as one from whom others hide their faces he was despised, and we held him of no account”.

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