USCCB Podcast of the Readings:
A reading from the Holy Gospel according to Luke.
There was a scholar of the law who stood up to test Jesus and said,
“Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
Jesus said to him, “What is written in the law?
How do you read it?”
He said in reply,
“You shall love the Lord, your God,
with all your heart,
with all your being,
with all your strength,
and with all your mind,
and your neighbor as yourself.”
He replied to him, “You have answered correctly;
do this and you will live.”
But because he wished to justify himself, he said to Jesus,
“And who is my neighbor?”
“A man fell victim to robbers
as he went down from Jerusalem to Jericho.
They stripped and beat him and went off leaving him half-dead.
A priest happened to be going down that road,
but when he saw him, he passed by on the opposite side.
Likewise a Levite came to the place,
and when he saw him, he passed by on the opposite side.
But a Samaritan traveler who came upon him
was moved with compassion at the sight.
He approached the victim,
poured oil and wine over his wounds and bandaged them.
Then he lifted him up on his own animal,
took him to an inn, and cared for him.
The next day he took out two silver coins
and gave them to the innkeeper with the instruction,
‘Take care of him.
If you spend more than what I have given you,
I shall repay you on my way back.’
Which of these three, in your opinion,
was neighbor to the robbers’ victim?”
He answered, “The one who treated him with mercy.”
Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”
Good News Reflection: Love and apathy
It’s interesting that in the parable of the Good Samaritan (today’s Gospel reading), Jesus does not tell us the identity or nationality or social status of the man who needs help. We don’t know if the traveler from Samaria helped the enemy or a fellow Samaritan.
It doesn’t matter. The sin of the priest and the Levite is that they didn’t care enough to even find out if this man was alive or dead, or what kind of help he needed. Trapped in their self-centered world, they choose to completely ignore him.
The opposite of love is not hate. It’s apathy: ignoring a need, not caring, doing nothing when there is something we can do to relieve suffering.
Apathy is not natural. We were born to love. Apathy begins when there are voids in our lives that cause a feeling of continual dissatisfaction: the empty, aching, lonely, scary voids that indicate something is missing.
What’s missing is love. The people who should care about us sometimes fail to give us all the love that we need. Even those who love us most cannot give us all that we need. And there are those who totally reject their calling to care about us; they treat us with apathy.
No one can love us completely the way we need their love. So, we either numb ourselves and become apathetic toward others, or we decide to rely more fully on God, who is love and who is never apathetic toward us.
The achy voids we feel are clues that we haven’t yet given God our full attention.
When God’s love isn’t filling us, we automatically try to fill the voids with anger, cynicism, busyness, co-dependent relationships, over-eating, over-shopping, anesthetizing drinks or drugs, or self-esteem boosting accolades.
Aha, there really is no such thing as a void, is there! A vacuum sucks in whatever is near the hole. We fill our empty areas with things and people and activities that are not God. This causes apathy, because it prevents the outward flow of love, and at the same time it makes us miserable, because it never sufficiently brings us love.
Jesus says that we are to love our neighbors as ourselves and that every person we encounter is a neighbor. Why? Because caring for others moves us from self-centeredness to “God-filledness.” By giving love away, God rushes in and fills up the emptied places with his own presence.
We were not designed to be selfish. Made in the image of God, we feel happiest when we unite ourselves to his love. Joy and satisfaction come from actively loving everyone: God, others, and ourselves.
Beloved Lord, forgive me for looking for my “neighbor” as someone far from me. Grant me the grace of doing good to those people who are near me in my everyday circumstances. Amen.
© 2018 by Terry A. Modica