There’s a tendency afoot alleging an extreme, bordering on the violent, hatred and rancor between the Jews and the Samaritans. Daniel Harrington in the Luke volume of Sacra Pagina offers a bit of nuance, because the focus on the antipathy distracts from the point of the story which is an outrageous act of charity. After all there is plenty of gospel evidence that Jesus had a mission to the Samaritans, and was welcome there despite his Jewishness, and the Acts of the Apostles relates the acceptance of Christ and establishment of successful communities there of believers in Acts chapters 8, 9, and 15. Indeed only in Luke 9,53 is a Samaritan mentioned negatively. Indeed here in this story, the Samaritan acts like Jesus in his own response to those on the side of the road, beaten up by life, and crying out for mercy.

The story is about the risks of outrageous love, agape love, and επιεικεια, a Greek ethical principal, imbedded in Roman law and Canon law, that a law can be broken to achieve a higher good, in other words setting the principle of the natural law above man-made laws (deliberately using male language here). The law would have commanded the Samaritan to do nothing, but walk on as the priest and the levite did. The natural law stirs in the human heart and cries out for this new kind of compassion. The priest and the levite, rigid keepers of the Mosaic laws of ritual purity, are portrayed by Jesus as ignoring this inner call of the human heart, an inner call put there by God.

The story of the graciously hospitable Samaritan is followed immediately in the Gospel of Luke by the gracious hospitality of Martha and Mary, which is next Sundays Gospel. The two accounts are best served when referencing one another.

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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