10th July, 2022

statue good samaritan

 

‘The Good Samaritan is not just a parable;
it is not a made-up story but it is a way of life’.
Pope Francis

 Homily for the 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time

When I came to England in 2012, that is almost 10 years ago, and when I arrived at my first Polish parish in Northampton, I was surprised that my parishioners did not know their neighbours. This was for several reasons, but one of them was because people move from one place to another – from one town to another, or sometimes emigrate to another country. They look for a new job, a better school for their children, they might want to move to a bigger house or to downsize to a smaller house. Sometimes people do not have enough time to get to know their neighbours. In the small village, where I was born and grew up, it was the opposite. Everyone knew each other, not only by sight but also by name.

This Sunday, we are invited to reflect and answer the following questions – who is my neighbour? Do we know our neighbours? How often do we see them? Have we ever had a chance to show them any kindness? Do we trust them? Would they trust us? Or, perhaps we do not get on, we fight. Sometimes, there is a language or cultural barrier between us and communication is difficult. Maybe we could try to make an extra effort to understand each other.

Some time ago, I heard a version of the fairy tale of the Golden Fish. Once, there was a fisherman, who caught a golden fish. The fish pleaded with him, “Let me go and I will grant you three wishes. But you have to remember that whatever you wish for, your neighbour will get three times as much”. The fisherman thought. First, he wished for lots of money. He knew that his neighbour would receive three times as much. For his second wish, he asked to be handsome, knowing that his neighbour would be three times as handsome. The golden fish asked him what was his third wish. He pondered for a while and then asked, ‘Could I possibly have a very slight heart attack?!’ There are other versions of this story – that it was a woman, who caught a fish, or even a husband, whose wife would have got three times as much as what he had wished for. This is a little example that we sometimes feel ambivalent towards our neighbours. What would we wish for?

Today, in the Gospel Reading, Jesus tells us the parable about a man, who was attacked, while travelling from Jerusalem to Jericho, and the only one who helped the traveller was a Samaritan. Jesus told this parable to a lawyer, who thought that only people of his religion were his neighbours. Jesus wanted him to understand what is absolutely essential if he wanted to achieve eternal life. He wanted to change his understanding of the word ‘neighbour’. As you know, we live in a very multicultural country and I hope we all feel very welcome. When I meet people and take part in different gatherings and meetings – not only connected to the Diocese, I encounter people of different nationalities and world views, who have similar joys and problems as I have. No matter where we come from, we all need God and His love in our lives, so let us enthusiastically share our faith with others. Let us follow the example of the Good Samaritan and extend our Christian love to all around us.

During one of his audiences, Pope Francis said: ‘The Good Samaritan is not just a parable, it is not a made-up story but it is a way of life’. Pope Francis continued, ‘Jesus has reversed our way of looking at things. It is not up to us to categorise or select people into groups, to see if they count as our neighbours’. Later, pondering on Jesus’s words: ‘Go, and do the same yourself’, the Pope asked, ‘Am I the neighbour, or do I just simply pass along? Or am I one of those who selects people according to their own pleasure? It is good to ask ourselves these questions because in the end, we will be judged on our works of mercy. The Lord will say to us: <Do you remember that time on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho. That man was me, half-dead! Do you remember? That hungry child was me! Do you remember? The migrant, whom many wanted to drive out – It was me! Those parents, alone, abandoned in nursing homes – It was me! That sick person in the hospital, that no one went to visit – It was me!>. May the Virgin Mary help us to walk along the paths of generous love towards others, the path of the Good Samaritan. This is the only way to enter eternal life’.

So, as we go home today, remember that the Good Samaritan is not a parable but a way of life, and I wish you, and myself, that this becomes our way of life.

Fr Gregory