Patti LaCross' Homily from July 14, 2013

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Deuteronomy 30:9-14; Colossians 1:1-14; Luke 1o:25-7


Were there any specific phrases or images that spoke to you from this rich feast of Scriptures?  Maybe “God’s delight in prospering you?”  Or, “the nearness of the word in your mouth and heart?” “The love you have for all the saints”, “the hope laid up for you”, the “joyful giving of thanks”, or  the image of mercy  shown by the Samaritan? Any number of phrases from today’s 3 SS might one that resonates for you; listen for it! You may be gifted with a soundtrack for the next few days.

Is there anyone here who has not heard -or heard of – this story commonly called the Good Samaritan? It is well known and oft quoted beyond religious circles; it is referenced regarding the Common Good.

We are in that section of Luke subtitled the Journey to Jerusalem, and it begins with the rejection of Jesus in the village of Samaria. Those Samaritans, still claiming to be the true children of Abraham, would not have been inclined to welcome an itinerant Jewish preacher. Especially not one proclaiming a New Kingdom of God; they had already been controlled in turn by the Israelites, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks and Romans in a pattern that hasn’t changed.

In fact they are treated Jesus and his band so rudely that James and John asked permission to firebomb the village! (A sadly prescient instinct, given that Samaria is now known as the West Bank.) Jesus rebukes this escalation of hostility. He teaches his his followers to prepare themselves to encounter resistance to their proclamation of the gospel. They are to move on if they are not welcome because the Word they are privileged to preach has its power from God. We do well to remember this, when our own efforts meet road blocks.

Unfortunately the lectionary schedule omits what I think are key verses in the development of Luke’s Gospel leading to today’s parable. READ  vs. 21-24. I savor this section, in large part because it is one of or the only specific reference to Jesus’ own Joy in all of the Gospels. I believe that joy is the proper context for this story: joy and our privileged participation in the Gospel are essential to understanding this parable. Our entry into sharing the Good News makes Jesus exult with joy even as he heads toward his death.

So it is that after being tossed out of Samaria, Jesus answers a challenger with this parable. In his story, the privilege of seeing and hearing the good news is given not to the learned and scrupulously observant Jews, but to a Samaritan who comes selflessly to the aid of a stranger, mirroring the boundless mercy of our God: Good News!

**can you imagine an impish Jesus looking behind that lawyer to the incredulity on the faces of his gang? Nothing is impossible in the kingdom of God, if the rejecting Samaritan can be reimagined as the compassionate one! That man is Jesus! Would they recognize him?

Joy for we who follow Jesus comes from trusting in the presence and power of God ….in recognizing the privilege we enjoy in that trust. And in participating in a mercy that confounds conventional wisdom.

The gospels frequently feature a Jesus who is “On the way……” encountering people, listening to them in a way that lifts them up, and showing mercy. He desires them to be free,  and I imagine one could see the fear melt away and a smile come to the faces of those who recognized him. I have to believe that part of what they experienced was his joy; His unhurried presence with them.  Can you imagine the smile of Jesus?

Maybe travel through our own days could include a little more of that presence to strangers in our lives. Preoccupied with our own rather important plans, it can be hard to see the victim left on the side of the road. Even, literally. In 1973 – that is, before cell phones- Princeton Theological Seminary conducted an experiment based on this parable. This was to determine if study of and activity based on the Parable of the Good Samaritan would influence seminary students’ empathy. Students were told they were participating in a study on religious education, and were given a variety of questionnaires on things such as their religious outlook.  Some read and prepared a presentation on this very parable.  Others were to prepare and present information on employment opportunities at the seminary. Both tasks required that the students walk to a different building across campus to present. They were also given varied lengths of time to prepare and arrive for the task.

Would those whose minds were wrapped around this parable be more likely to help than those talking about employment? Would the pressure of time influence the outcome?

A “victim” actor had been place in a doorway near the way in the path of each student, with specific instructions as to how and how often to moan and cough.

The outcomes clearly showed that the only factor in whether students stopped to assist the “victim” was the extent to which they felt rushed. Topical focus was not a factor. Among those with sufficient time 65% stopped; of those moderately rushed 45% stopped, and f those feeling pressured only 10% stopped, with some stepping directly over the victim of their way. Subsequent related behavioral studies as recent as this year show comparable results: being in a hurry or distracted seriously compromise our capacity for empathy.

We are gathered in this quiet place today, because over 1500 years Benedict of Nursia realized that without what some now call mindful awareness, we cannot live fully human lives.

And we certainly cannot live lives worthy of the Gospel if we are unable to let its message steep into our bones, resonate even into our unconscious thoughts, and free up the limitless imagination that the dawning new creation requires of those who would proclaim and live it.

Faith, wrote Jorge Bergoglio, “implies that we have eyes to wonder and a heart that is not lazily accustomed”.

Jorge Bergoglio, now Francis, was describing this mindfulness in opening the 50th year observance of the Second Vatican Council in Buenos Aires last fall. He spoke to that Council’s image of the open door, and shared 11 qualities of an awakened life of faith. This is one:

Crossing the threshold of the faith leads us to forgiving and to know how to break into a smile. It means approaching every person who lives on the edge of existence and calling them by name. It is taking care of the fragility of the weakest, and supporting their trembling knees in the certainty that in what we do for the smallest of our (fellows) it is to Jesus himself that we are doing it (Mt.25. 40).

Jorge Bergoglio October 2012


Let us pray:

In thanksgiving for Benedict and Scholastica, Francis of Assisi, and all the women and men to this day and to this place who foster monastic life through prayer, hospitality, and care for creation ……

For all who live at the very edges of a full and free human life: for those who are oppressed by violence, poverty, addiction, or disease of any kind, let us pray for freedom,  and peace….

For what else?

For these and all those entered in our book of intentions, let us pray.

Abba God, please accept these prayers we entrust to you because of the hope you have laid up for us. Grant us your wisdom to lead lives pleasing to you, endurance in our trials, and joy in the faith we share. We ask this in Jesus’ name, by the power of the Holy Spirit, Amen.


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