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Evangelist Michael P. Howard

15th Sunday in Ordinary Time

"But because he wished to justify himself, he said to Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?" (Lk. 10:25-37)

When reading the Bible, I reflect on the many questions proposed to Jesus. The questions cause me to reflect on whether these were legitimate questions where someone desired to learn, or if they simply wanted to discredit Jesus' character. For example, the woman at the well asked Jesus, "Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us this well and drank from it himself with his children and his flocks?" (Jn. 4:12). One can assume that she was seeking information. Or what about the question we had on the 13th Sunday of Ordinary Time, when the disciples asked, "Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them?" One can only imagine why the disciples would want to destroy a group of people in the town while walking with the Prince of Peace.

Interestingly, in Luke's gospel on the 15th Sunday of Ordinary Time, a scholar proposed two questions to Jesus. He stood there to discredit Jesus by asking, "What must I do to inherit eternal life?" What's so fascinating in this dialogue is that when Jesus asks the scholar about what the law says, the scholar recites the ten commandments. The scholar showed off his academic skills as if he was super intelligent.

However, this conversation gets even more laughable. The scholar knew the commandments; he studied the old testament's laws, yet he had the nerve to ask this second elementary question, "And who is my neighbor?" Perhaps here, the scholar blacked out this law in his copy of Leviticus. He failed to retain this wisdom, "When a stranger resides with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the stranger as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt" (Lev 19:33-34).

For this reason, Jesus introduced the Good Samaritan narrative to the scholar. In this story, the stranger on Jericho Road was a victim, poorly beaten by robbers. Two highly esteemed people, the priest, and Levite avoided attending to the man, a stranger in Jerusalem. It was only the Good Samaritan who cared for the stranger.

We need a more expensive understanding of who are our neighbors. In the psalms, we read, "Love and truth will meet; justice and peace will kiss" (Ps. 85:10). When reflecting on this idea of who is my neighbor, one must be willing to establish a relationship with a stranger regardless of social or local customs. It doesn't matter if the stranger is next door, across the street, or visiting from another country. Your God-given love and truth that God created us all must demonstrate justice and peace. These virtues must extend to each of us so we may flourish in this world as God's children -- neighbors to one another. I believe the scholar knew the commandments but did not know love and justice. As the scripture said, "But because he wished to justify himself, he said to Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?" Knowing love is knowing justice. You cannot have one without the other.

"Each of us is fully a person when we are part of a people" Pope Francis FRATELLI TUTTI (182)

"Love and truth will meet; justice and peace will kiss. Truth will spring from the earth; justice will look down from heaven. Yes, the LORD will grant his bounty; our land will yield its produce. Justice will march before him, and make a way for his footsteps" (Ps. 85:11-14).

Author: Evangelist Michael P. Howard, MACS

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