Dear Brothers and Sisters,
The familiar parable of the Good Samaritan we hear this weekend reminds us of the true meaning of charity. The figure of the Samaritan is striking not only because of his genuine care for the robbers’ victim, the aid he renders, or the way he cares for the man out of his own means, but because none of the people to whom Jesus spoke would ever expect a Samaritan to live with any kind of righteousness, generosity, or justice. We know that between Jews and Samaritans, no love was lost, the two peoples had nothing to do with one another, the division was total and complete. A story of a Samaritan stopping to serve and aid a Jew is striking.
Further, the man was on a journey from Jerusalem to Jericho. In Scripture, Jerusalem always symbolizes the holy city, the dwelling place of God. Jericho, by contrast, is a city on the border of the Promised Land, a place viewed with suspicion because of its reputation for sin and vice. Geographically, Jerusalem is a city set on a hill, while Jericho is at a lower elevation. Thus, a man going on a journey from Jerusalem is turning away from the holy city, and physically descending toward a city of sin. That he is set upon by robbers seems less surprising. He has set out on a figurative road to perdition that becomes in reality what it represents. Notice that the Samaritan man’s direction is not specified. In other words, perhaps he also was going down to Jericho. Perhaps he was going up to Jerusalem, toward the holy city, toward the house of God.
Let us speculate (a dangerous practice when reading Scripture, but hopefully safe enough for our purposes today!) about the Samaritan’s destination. Let us suppose that he was on his way from Jericho. If so, then he is moving toward the holy city, toward the God who created him, toward the truth. In Jerusalem, he will encounter the Holy of Holies, the truth of the covenant God made with His people, Israel. As he moves closer to the truth, as he journeys closer to the Lord, he sees someone in need and freely offers himself in service. Any movement of the heart closer to God naturally leads us out of ourselves. To serve, to give generously from the heart, especially when motivated by our faith, allows us to truly live in God’s grace and be reflections of the truth of the Gospel.
The Samaritan then continues his journey. He serves, but does not stop at service. He continues (again, speculating) toward Jerusalem, toward the holy city. He makes it clear that he intends to return to the inn, though. Is he planning to go back to Jericho? One final speculation…the Samaritan knows what God is doing in his heart and the change that is happening. He knows WHO he will encounter in Jerusalem. And he knows that, having encountered God Almighty, he will be forever changed. He knows that on his return, his life will be different. He will return, down to Jericho, to bring the truth he experienced in Jerusalem to all. He will show to those mired in sin and darkness the light of true charity. We too are called to go up to Jerusalem, to encounter the living God, and then to bring His light, His charity to all we meet.