The Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St. Luke. (10:25-37)
There is a question that each of us should ask every day of our lives. We ask many questions as it is: “what shall I eat?” “What should I wear?” “What should I watch?” “What should I say?” “What will I ask for this Christmas?” But the question that we must ask every day of our lives is this: “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?” This is the question that is asked by the lawyer who comes to put the Lord Jesus Christ to the test. You begin to experience freedom in your life and your thoughts when you are free from things that enslave you. You experience freedom when you focus on the things that will live on forever, specifically focusing on the state of your soul. But you experience slavery when you are attached to the material world and the things of the body and it’s pleasures.
“What shall I do to inherit eternal life?” Do we begin each day and each activity with this thought in mind? If not, how will we remember that every part of life is meant for loving God and loving my neighbor? When the Lord is tested and asked this question: “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He answers by saying “What is written in the Law? How do you read?” And the lawyer answers Him saying
“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 neighbor as yourself.” And Jesus said to him, “You have answered right; do this, and you will live.” But the lawyer, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
This is the next critical question that the lawyer asks: “And who is my neighbor?” Today we are confused about this. Social media has weaponized the news to divide people. It uses impersonal communication to further hamper real discussion and easily leads people into strife. We are not content seeing people as human. We are told that the only way to see people is through categories. That we should see people as Black or White as male or female as Democrat or Republican and the list goes on. According to ideologies, such as the Marxism that has taken hold in the universities and parts of corporate America today, there are no normal people. You either fit neatly into one category or another, either you are a part of the oppressed or part of the oppressor class. My dear brothers and sisters, reject Satan and his lies and his division no matter what form it takes. Each and every human being is created in the image of God our creator! Do not participate in anything that renders anyone as less than human.
The Lord Jesus saw past labels when He answered the lawyer’s question with a parable. In His parable, the hero of the story is a Samaritan! And Samaritans were considered as bad, ungodly, and less than human by the Jews of the day. Yet the Samaritan demonstrates his true knowledge and love of God through His merciful care of the one who was in need.
It is interesting to note that many of the Church fathers see in this parable, the gospel of Christ and the Samaritan as a symbol of our Lord Jesus himself. In fact when you see an icon of this parable, it will typically feature the Lord Jesus as the good Samaritan who tends to the needs of the man who fell among thieves. If this parable is an allegory than who is the man who fell among thieves? It is each of us, all of humanity. We fell prey to Satan and His demonic forces. We were tempted and provoked into sin and the demons stole our immortal inheritance and our virtues, while also wounding our souls. But Christ came to us and found us in that terrible state we were in and He had compassion on us.
Origen tells us that according to one interpreter, the inn where the man was taken is a symbol of the Church. St. Augustine tells us that the wine and oil are symbols of the powerful and life giving sacraments of the Church. He says “Robbers left you half-dead on the road, but you have been found lying there by the passing and kindly Samaritan. Wine and oil have been poured on you. You have received the sacrament of the only-begotten Son. You have been lifted onto his mule. You have believed that Christ became flesh. You have been brought to the inn, and you are being cured in the church. That is where and why I am speaking. This is what I too, what all of us are doing. We are performing the duties of the innkeeper.”
When we hear these words of the parable we are corrected and taught to see everyone as human and as our neighbor. We are challenged and expected to show mercy to others, even when it is not convenient to do so. When mercy is convenient and easy, it is not worth much in the eyes of God. But when it is inconvenient or uncomfortable and we are still merciful to others, that is noteworthy. I would like to add another aspect to this. Mercy is not simply to care for the physical needs of others, although that is very important. It is to care for their spiritual well-being.
If the fathers of the Church are correct and the inn is the Church, then it is an invitation or a mandate for each of us to act like the Samaritan (who is Christ) and to bring others, even if we have to carry them, to the Church of God. It is not enough to live a private religious/ spiritual life. Can I tell you something very important? Now the world needs us. Now we are called to be the light and the salt to the world around us. Now we are the Samaritans who are called to see everyone as our neighbors. We are called to carry others to Christ through our prayers. We are also called to invite others to life in Christ, within His Church.Can we do that? Can we challenge ourselves to invite others to Christ and to His Church? Who is brave enough to follow through with this challenge? Who is brave enough to do what the priest and the Levite would not do and bend down to serve our neighbors and invite them to Christ? Your neighbor is the person who lives next to you. Your neighbor is your classmate. Your neighbor is your co-worker. Your neighbor is your friend or family member. Your neighbor is the cashier or the waitress you see on a weekly basis. Perhaps one of these people in your life is waiting for a Samaritan to lift them and carry them to Christ. After all, this is what the Lord Jesus did for each of us.
In 40 days we will celebrate the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ. So we prepare our hearts to properly celebrate that feast with 40 days of fasting in the Orthodox tradition. That means that the next 40 days are to be days that we rededicate ourselves to prayer and reading and the things of God. The world would like us to lose the Christian perspective and simply celebrate like everyone else. But we are not the world. This is one of the great fasting periods in the life of the Church, don’t miss out on the opportunity to grow in your spiritual life. What can we do to make sure that we do not squander this opportunity from God?
Turn off the television 30 minutes earlier than usual in the evening, and use this time for extra reading and prayer. Perhaps choosing a good Christian book or story Bible to share with the family. We could add some prostrations or kneeling bows to our prayer routines, even 5 or 10 before prayer will be a positive. We could make a list of people that we would like to give gifts to, who are not our friends and from whom we expect nothing in return. We could dedicate an hour each week to caring for someone in need or even call people who might feel isolated and need our support. Perhaps we can spend a little less on gifts and give a little more to those in need. If we want this to be a special Christmas, let us consecrate this season of our life to Jesus Christ, and He will bless and transform the meaning of this feast for you and open up new realities within your souls. If we are faithful and we allow Him, He will become the reason for our joy. And glory be to God forever AMEN.