Homily – Why a Good Samaritan?

The lesson is that we need to have the courage and compassion to love all people that are in need; even those who are different from us.  But if that was the main point, why not make the Samaritan the one on the roadside? Why did Jesus make him the one who saves the victim?  Enjoy the show!

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Notes for the Homily:

Why did Christ pick a Samaritan as the Hero in this story?
Homily on St. Luke 10:25-37

Never thought of this; heard it a zillion times. The lesson is that we need to have the courage and compassion to love all people that are in need; even those who are different than ourselves. Necessary corrective! Our instincts betray us (psychology has proven this).

But if that was the main point, why not make the Samaritan the one on the roadside and an ordinary Jew the one that helps him? Then the Jews listening to him would have known that they should love and help Samaritans, not just other Jews.

1) It was to part of a more general pattern that Jesus followed of condemning the Jewish religious leaders. He had a lot of patience for everyone but hypocrites; of people who knew what the greatest commandments of the law were, but refused to follow them. Contrasting the best of the best with a lowly Samaritan was a perfect way to show that the Jewish leaders behaved in a way that was less than human.

2) But it wasn’t just to shame their religious leaders, it was to shame all of the listeners; to point out that their own behavior would have been just as despicable as that of the priest and the Levite. Jesus was basically saying; “this is how what your leaders would have done… and you would have been tempted to do the same.” It wasn’t necessary to put an ordinary Jew in there; two points make a line. Jesus had already described the line by describing the usual behavior of the men who were supposed to be the “best of the best.” He was describing the psychology not just of the Jews, but of mankind in general. Mankind was caught in a rut – he was not virtuous. He was not courageous. He was too willing to define virtue based on what other people did rather than on what virtue actually requires. It would take something jarring to get them to see this and to change. The Samaritan [in the parable] is virtuous not because of who he is (i.e. the box he has been put in) but because of what he does; just as the priest and the Levite are cowardly and mean not because of who they are (i.e. the box they have been put in) but because of their actions.

3) There is a more subtle theological point that the Church would have us remember. The Samaritan is an outsider. It is an outsider, one who is only half-Jew – or half-man, as it were – that heals the dying man. The Orthodox Church teaches that the Samaritan here represents Christ. He is counter-posed to the Jewish priest and Levite in the parable not just because He is also different – He is both fully man and fully God – but because He is the only one who can bring healing to the brokenness of humanity. As a good and virtuous man, he – unlike the Jewish leaders of His time – had the will to save all mankind; and as the All-Powerful God, He also had the power to do it. The Jewish law and temple worship that the Priest and Levite cannot heal the wounds of mankind the way that Christ can. He is more than our High Priest, He is Christ God, the Savior of the world.

In Conclusion, our psychology is the same as that of Christ’s audience. We are called to be virtuous; to be courageous and caring, even when the world is not. But we have more than parables and Christ’s example and teaching to help us. He is the source of all virtue and healing, and we are His body. If we accept Him as our God, then it is His virtue that defines us and His healing power that flows from our loving actions. But there is even more: we are still fallen and our psychology is still the same: for instance, we still look to others to see what the right behavior is. The parish, like the family, is called to be a community that is defined by its virtue and charity; the examples that we set for one another naturally create a community that is good. Moreover, our community then sets the example – becomes the leaven for – the entire nation and the world itself. May God strengthen us as we live virtuous lives for the good of our families, our parish, our nation, and the world.