Who Is My Neighbor?

There is an isolated spot on a dangerous road in the Middle East known as “The Bloody Pass.” The road, at the time of this event, was more of a narrow path — a twisting, turning path with cliffs and caves on either side — lots of places for thugs to hide. This particular place, “The Bloody Pass,” got its name because of the violence that commonly occurred there.

Unfortunately, one poor man happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time. He was attacked by bandits and left half-dead, tossed to the side of the road. He was bleeding and certainly would die without help. The bandits even took his clothes.

Recognize this story? It’s one of Jesus’ most well-known parables — the Good Samaritan. In fact, most of us have heard it so many times that we tend to gloss over it, thinking, Yeah, yeah, the Good Samaritan — help people in trouble and stuff… got it.

Notice the setup for the story of the Good Samaritan. What prompted Jesus to tell this story in the first place? Verse 25 says that an “expert in the law” wanted to “test” Jesus. In other words, this man, who knew the Old Testament and Jewish law backward and forward, inside and out, was trying to trip Jesus up.

When the man asked, “What do I have to do to inherit eternal life?” How did Jesus respond? He said, basically, “Hey, you’re the expert. What does the Law say?” The “Law” Jesus referred to here is the “law of Moses,” or the first five books of the Old Testament.

The expert then recited what Jesus calls in Matthew 22 the greatest and the second greatest commandments: He answered: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind,” and, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

In return, Jesus responded, in essence, “You got it. Do those two things — one, love God with your whole being and, two, love your neighbor as yourself — and you will live.”

“OK, Jesus, tell me this: Who is my neighbor?”

Who is my neighbor? Who is it, exactly, that God calls us to love just as much as we love ourselves? And beyond that, once we know who our neighbor is, what do we do? How do we show that we love our neighbor as much as we love ourselves?

Jesus answers the question in a beautiful story of compassion in action.

Jesus ended His conversation with the lawyer with a powerful command: Go and do likewise. That command — go and do  likewise : the mandate to love our neighbor as ourselves . “Who is our neighbor?” The parable of the Good Samaritan gives us the answer. It’s simple – our neighbor is anyone in need that we are in a position to help – the unselfish attention to a sick child, the vigil kept  at the bedside of a dying relative, the outreach to the poor and oppressed in our world, making the stranger feel at home among us.

In these ways is Christ’s love made manifest.

Adapted from Renew International Prayer Time Cycle C