Surpassed only by the Lost Son parable from the Pharisee’s dinner, this Sunday we have the parable of the Good Samaritan.

A lawyer asks about the requirements for eternal life, as if were a legal question at all. Jesus turns the question back on him with two questioons. The building up of the narrative works this way. The lawyer responds with the great Shema, a commandment very familiar to Jews today, as it is literally on their doorposts. He adds the great levitical love commandment regarding the neighbor. Jesus applauds him, and it could have ended right there, the lawyer proceeds with the game of questions. “Who is my neighbor?”

Jesus’ response to this is the parable of the Good Samaritan, and then Jesus concludes with the final question, turned on the lawyer. The five questions comprise the structure of the encounter; these are also five excellent questions for evangelization and for one’s own discipleship. This fine question is startling and unexpected by the lawyer who could not have seen it coming at him, and yet the answer is inevitable. Nor could the lawyer have expected the final command of Jesus, inviting him into the first stages of discipleship! The tension in this encounter are in the questions.

Jesus uses an outrageous example of the Good Samaritan to make and to strengthen his case for the breath and scope of love and mercy. Note that the Samaritan was possibly a man of substance, because he had his own animal and was traveling well provisioned with wine and oil and coin enough for lodging in excess of what was needed. Thus the lawyer could identify with this Samaritan, because the lawyer himself was probably wealthy in his profession.

Alan Hartway

Theological Studies at Catholic Theological Union, Chicago IL; Master of Fine Arts, Poetics, at Naropa University, Boulder CO 1996; Master of Arts, Greek Classics, University of Colorado, Boulder CO 2012; Taught at Naropa University from 1999 through 2015; Chair of Interdisciplinary Studies from 2007-2015; Member of the Missionaries of the Precious Blood, Kansas City Province since 1974; Pastor at Guardian Angel Catholic Church, Mead, CO, ministry from 2007-2020 Currently Retired

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