Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Homily for 15th Sunday of Ordinary Tiime, July 10, 2016 by Beverly Bingle RCWP

Scripture scholars agree that Jesus
actually spoke today's parable of the Good Samaritan,
or something very much like it.
They call the parable itself “a classic example
of the provocative public speech of Jesus the preacher.”
But they also say that Luke
created the dialogue around the parable,
reasoning that the dialogue asks two questions
that are different from the teaching of the parable itself.
Those two questions
are what I'm used to hearing about this passage:
“Who is my neighbor?” and “Which one acted like a neighbor?”
But the parable itself leads us to ask this question:
“From what quarter can I expect help
when I have been robbed, beaten, and left for dead?”
If I'm the one in need of help,
who do I think will step up and be a neighbor to me?
Phyllis is one.
Whenever I have to go out of town overnight,
she tends my chickens and keeps watch on the house.
Then there's Carrie and her family, across the street from me.
They've learned how to herd chickens
from those times the mail carrier or meter reader
has left the gate open.
Down at Claver House George and John and Tina and Shirley
get worried and phone me if I don't show up for breakfast.
And you, the members of our Holy Spirit Catholic Community,
tend me every time you see me struggling—
like when I was hobbling around on crutches last spring.
I am surrounded by Good Samaritans,
people who help me instinctively
because they have formed themselves
into compassionate human beings.
So there are people around me who I expect will help me.
But who would I not expect help from?
Jesus' audience for this parable would have thought
that the beat-up and bleeding man in the ditch was a Jew.
They would have expected the priest and the Levite to help him.
But they didn't.
They would not have expected the hated Samaritan to help him.
But he did.
And he went way beyond that,
reaching out with boundless compassion and resources
to bring help and healing.
Would I expect a Muslim to help me? Or not?
A Mexican immigrant?
A politician?
A homeless person?
A bishop?
My answer will show what I think of other people.
It will lay bare my acceptance of some and my rejection of others.
We all want to become the kind of person
who will be expected to be a neighbor to anyone in need.
The only way to do that
is to practice compassion in ordinary, everyday life.
When we decide to follow Jesus, it's a process.
We decide to reflect and pray and study and act
in ways that will form us into a person of virtue.
If we think people who are different from us—
in race or ethnicity or religion
or gender or political persuasion—
would not be expected to help us in a crisis,
that's a sign that we need to change.
Toledo janitor Karen Loudermill, taking a break from work,
saw a young girl walking alone on the street
in the middle of the night.
Karen didn't hesitate to get involved.
She didn't worry about getting back to work on time.
She didn't wonder if the girl was on drugs, or mentally ill,
or dangerous in some way.
She didn't think about what could happen to her.
Karen walked over and started the conversation
that uncovered serious mistreatment
in the home where the girl had been kept a prisoner.
D.C. government worker Larry Skutnik,
caught in a traffic jam on a bridge over the Potomac
as he headed home,
got out of his car
and saw that a plane had crashed into the river.
Larry watched as a helicopter rescued two of the three people
hanging on to the tail of the plane.
When he saw the third starting to go under,
he took off his shoes and jacket, dived into the freezing water,
and brought the woman to the shore.
Larry's comment: “I reacted instinctively, that's all.”
What made Karen and Larry take those heroic actions?
What made them risk danger to help a stranger?
What gave them that instinct for compassion?
That kind of virtue comes from how they had learned to be
in the ordinary times,
not from extraordinary circumstances.
They are ordinary people
who learned compassion
to the point that they didn't even think about themselves
when they saw another human being in need.
The crisis didn't create their character.
It revealed it.
Social psychologists who study bystander apathy
identify three things a person uses
to decide whether to do something in an emergency:
whether or not they feel the person is deserving of help;
whether they have competence to help;
and what relationship they have with the victim.
As Christians—and as Americans—
we say we believe that all people are equal
and therefore equally deserving of help.
We believe that everyone is a child of God, a brother or sister to us.
That means that we have the same relationship
with any and every victim.
And that means that we have a responsibility
to develop habits of compassion
that will cause us to act instinctively
to help whenever we can.
We can't hesitate because the person isn't like us,
or because we don't know who they are,
or because we aren't EMTs.
When Jesus says
that the law is summed up as love God and love neighbor,
it sounds easy…
but it's the journey of a lifetime.

Holy Spirit Catholic Community
Saturdays at 4:30 p.m./Sundays at 5:30 p.m.
at 3925 West Central Avenue (Washington Church)


Rev. Dr. Bev Bingle, Pastor
Mailing address: 3156 Doyle Street, Toledo, OH 43608-2006

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