Who Is Our Neighbor?

Homily for Monday of the 27th Week in Ordinary Time

A couple of Sundays ago now, our Gospel included the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus. In my homily for that particular Sunday, I asked the question: Who is our Lazarus? Who is the one person or group of people that we give ourselves permission to treat differently, or treat in some negative way? I think that’s a similar question that the scholar of the Law in our Gospel today is asking Jesus. “Who is our neighbor?” Jesus responds with the parable of the Good Samaritan.

Remember, in Jesus’ time, Jews and Samaritans were enemies – they really hated each other. That makes this parable even more poignant. Jesus was challenging that accepted cultural norm of the Jews that their Samaritan brothers and sisters were supposed to be the enemy. He uses the Samaritan as the example of what it looks like to be a good neighbor, which would have made a lot of the Jews incredibly angry.

Sometimes, part of loving our neighbors as ourselves is looking at who we call our neighbors and possibly redefining the identities of those we see as our neighbors. In other words, we have to take a really long and sometimes difficult look at our own hearts and see why we fail to love others as we ought. That’s what Jesus came to do with the Jews and what He wants to do within us. He wants to challenge our biases; He wants to transform how we love others; He wants to make us more like Himself.

This morning, the Lord is inviting us to really take a look within ourselves and to ask Him to show us the parts of our hearts that need His transforming grace. In order for us to love others as we should, sometimes it means that we need to purify a certain aspect of our hearts. Let’s ask the Lord to show us that today. Let’s ask Him to help us to be the Good Samaritan to those most in need. May He change our hearts and allow us to see everyone as our neighbors.

Painting: The Good Samaritan, David Teniers the Younger. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Used under public domain.

Published by Fr. Tom Pringle

Priest of the Diocese of Orlando. Parochial Vicar at Holy Family Catholic Church, Orlando.

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