15th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C

     We all know the parable of the Good Samaritan. I could walk into the 1st grade classroom in our school and they could tell me all about the parable. If I asked you what Jesus was trying to teach in the parable you would probably tell me that He is calling each and every one of us to be that Samaritan, the one who helps to pick people up and take care of them. And while that is true, I’m afraid that sometimes when we hear such a familiar story, we just shut it out. We hear the story of the Good Samaritan and we say “I already know what that’s about.” And other thoughts begin to flood our mind. The reality is though these parables have an endless amount of things to teach us. We can always look at the parable from a different side.

     I dare say if you put your prejudices against this parable to the side, and you step back for a moment you would also be able to recognize that not only are we called to be that Samaritan, but if we are honest, we will also admit that we are also the victim lying on the side of the road. Look we feel good about other people. We want to help those in need whenever we can. Yet’ I’m afraid, oftentimes we fail to recognize that just as we can help others, we too need help in our own lives. Whether we want to admit it or not, all of us in our own way have been robbed and left for dead on the side of the road. All of us have some kind of baggage from which we need to be free. It could be a whole host of things and for each of us it will be deeply personal. Have you stopped yet, to identify what those things are in your life that are holding you back? Have you stopped for a moment to identify those wounds in your life that still need healing? In one way or another every single one of us has been robbed and we are waiting on the side of the road for the Good Samaritan, for Jesus Christ, to come and save us.

     Friends, that’s why we are gathered in this Church. If we had everything figured out there really wouldn’t be any reason for us to be here. We won’t have it figured out until we get to heaven. Each and every one of us is a practicing Catholic. Practicing, in the sense that we have not perfected it yet. That is what heaven is all about. But the good news is, Jesus never leaves us alone on the side of the road if only we are willing to let Him heal us.

     There is no doubt, that God loves us. All we have to do is look at the crucifix and recognize that God sent His only Son into the world to pick us up off the side of the street and to bring us with Him to the gates of eternal life. Jesus has the power to save. Jesus has the power to heal. The problem is not with Jesus, the problem is with us. We are not willing to bring those hurts and those needs to Him. We are not willing to lay ourselves out as the victim and allow Jesus to heal us. Rather, we often do the opposite. We often times pretend that everything is ok. Maybe that’s fine in our interactions with our friends, but Jesus knows better. Jesus knows our innermost thoughts, our innermost feelings, our innermost desires. Jesus knows our true self and He knows our brokenness. We cannot put up a facade, we cannot hide it from Him. Why then wouldn’t we allow Him to heal us?

     Today’s gospel shows us exactly how God wants to heal us. It is filled with all kinds of symbolism. Did you notice the setting of today’s parable? Jesus tells us that the victim was found on the road between Jericho and Jerusalem. Jesus doesn’t say it just to say it. In the scriptures, Jerusalem is considered the heavenly city.  The victim is lying on the path from this world to eternal life. The victim is lying wounded on his journey towards heaven. He cannot make it on his own. He is like you and I stuck on that path, stuck on the journey to eternal life.

     Look carefully, at the words that Jesus uses for this parable. These words have specific meaning. We are told He bandages up is victim. There are other places in scriptures where Jesus uses the biding; most especially when He taches us about the Sacrament of Confession. You remember the promise Jesus makes? “what you bind on earth will be bound in heaven and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”[1] There is a deep lesson there for us. Jesus wants to heal us in the sacrament of Confession. It’s the first question today’s parable asks us. Have you brought your damaged self, have you brought your hurts and pains to the sacrament of Confession where they can be healed? “The confessional is not a torture chamber, but the place in which the Lord’s mercy motivates us to do better.”[2] Why not let Him loosen those things that weigh us down in the Sacrament of Confession?

     Notice what the Samaritan does next. He fills the victim’s wounds with oil. In the ancient world oil was used as medicine. Just as we need physical healing in this life, we need spiritual healing as well and that exists in our Church in the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation Holy Orders, and Anointing of the Sick.

     The Good Samaritan does a third thing; he fills the man’s wounds with wine. Wine was used in the ancient world as an antiseptic, but it is also wine which becomes Jesus’ Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity at Mass. Just as the victim had his wounds cleansed with wine, every time we come to Holy Communion, Jesus’ divine life cleanses our wounds. Every time we receive Holy Communion, the Divine Physician comes to dwell within our brokenness. When we come to Mass do we present our brokenness to God or do we try to hold back pretending everything is ok?

     Lastly the Good Samaritan takes the victim to the inn so he can recover in safety. Friends, the Church, is our inn. The Church is the place where we come to find refuge, security, and safety. The Church is not a hall of fame for sinners, but rather a hospital for sinners. It’s a place you and I come because we recognize our sinfulness and we recognize the need to allow Jesus to pick us up and carry us on the path towards eternal life.

     My friends, ultimately “the root of all our unhappiness is the result of sin and its effects. The sooner we are free from the distortions and crippling of sin the sooner we will experience fuller joy and freedom as sons and daughters of God and be able more and more to be a blessing to others.”[3] The parable of the Good Samaritan teaches all kind of lessons, but today, I invite you to see that this parable teaches us that Jesus wants to meet us in the sacraments. That it is there that He waits to restore us to holiness; to restore us to the life of grace; to make His life present in our own life. If you find yourself stuck on this faith journey. If you find yourself stuck on the journey from this life to eternal life, then perhaps we need to refocus on encountering Christ in the sacraments.

     The choice is ours. If we are honest, we will admit that we are like that poor wounded man on the side of the road. We have two options; we can let Jesus in or we can stay paralyzed on the side of the road. Have you ever stopped to recognize the victim on the side of the road deserves some credit for allowing the Samaritan to help him? I don’t know about you, but if I’m stuck on the side of the road and random people come to help a little suspicious at first. What is going to happen? Do you really have the right intentions? We know Jesus’ intentions; He showed them to us on the cross. He knows our brokenness and our need for healing. The choice is ours. Do we let Him in or do we stay stranded on the side of the road.

 

 

[1] Mt 16:18

[2] Pope Francis, Interview with Father Antonio Spadaro. September 21, 2013. https://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/speeches/2013/september/documents/papa-francesco_20130921_intervista-spadaro.html

[3] Ralph Martin. The Fulfillment of All Desire. Steubenville: Emmaus Road Publishing. (2006) Pg. 352.

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