The Gospel that we hear tomorrow will be (for many) the Parable of the Good Samaritan. Recent events have made it difficult to hear the question "Who is my neighbour?" but it's a question we must hear and answer.
10th July 2016 Seventh after Trinity
Sermon delivered at St. John the Evangelist, 10:00AM.
Reading 1, Deuteronomy 30:10-14
Responsorial Psalm, Psalm 68 or 18
Reading 2, Colossians 1:15-20
Gospel, Luke 10:25-37
“…And who is my neighbour?
Last week, a march that was taking place in Toronto, Canada was halted for half an hour by activists staging a sit-in to publicise “Black Lives Matter”. I’m sure many of you are familiar with the US police shooting people of colour for little or no reason, and one reaction of the Black community has been “Black Lives Matter”.
Other communities have sometimes found it difficult to understand this saying. Well-meaning people say, “Well, Jesus tells us to love our neighbour, so All Lives Matter.
Yes, they do. All lives, in fact, all life matters. So why do people still feel obliged to chant “Black Lives Matter”?
A Facebook friend posted the following parable: “A large group of people was having dinner at a long table. One of them was named Bob. The waiters emerged with the starter and put a plate in front of every diner. Except for Bob. He got nothing.
“Then the main course came out, and again, the waiters put a plate of food in front of every diner. Except Bob.
“By this time Bob was very upset, as he was hungry. So suddenly Bob stood up and shouted ‘Bob needs food!’
“The rest of the diners looked up, taken aback, and shouted back at him ‘Everyone needs food!’ But Bob shouted all the louder, ‘Bob needs food!’ as the shouts of the rest of the group were doing nothing to actually get him any food.
“After a long struggle, Bob finally got his food.”
We have a parable in today’s Gospel that we are all familiar with. The person who was robbed obviously needed assistance. A priest who may have preached the duty of care for everyone in need walked by, but did nothing. He may have said to himself, “Everyone needs help” but done nothing for this man. If the priest had helped the victim, and the man died in the priest’s arms, the priest would not have been able to perform his duties as touching a dead body was forbidden to a priest.
Then a Levite came by. Levites were like deacons in the Catholic tradition. They swept up after the crowds had gone, performed various lesser religious duties in the Temple, and played music to accompany the Psalms.
This Levite didn’t help either, even though I’m sure he was familiar with the verses we heard from Deuteronomy about loving God and loving neighbour. But he passed by.
Then a Samaritan man discovered this crime victim. Samaritans were outcasts in Jesus’s time. They had separated from Judaism centuries before and worshiped at Mount Gerazim, rather than at Jerusalem. He knew who his neighbour was, and he knew that he had to help him. And so he did.
So who was his
As Christians we know what the answer was, since Jesus told us. The challenge is how we put it into practice.
Who is our
Our neighbour is every person we meet.
Do we say “Hello” to someone who greets us, or pass by as though we haven’t seen her? Noticing people is recognising them as our neighbours.
Do we help people that we don’t know, just because they ask for help or seem in trouble? Helping people is recognising them as our neighbours.
I was on a Bakerloo Line train once, and in the next carriage a couple of women were being menaced by lager louts. As it happens, the women moved into my carriage and then one got off at the same station as I did.
She came up to me and said, “Could you walk with me out of the station?” She was still very frightened and I walked and talked with her until we left the station and went our separate ways.
Did I mention that she was Iranian? She was also my neighbour.
Who is my
We are under a baptismal obligation to not only see every person as our neighbour, but to pay special attention to those who are oppressed, marginalised, injured, or killed for irrational, racist, or religious reasons.
Why are they my
They are formed in the image and likeness of God, that’s why. That is all we need to know.
Finally, are there special categories of neighbour?
All are neighbours, but some do not need our help in particular. I cannot believe that if I were to walk by Donald Trump or Rupert Murdoch on the street I would be under any obligation to help them. They don’t need my help and, in a way, they are beyond any opportunity to receive my help.
People who are oppressed, marginalised, injured, killed need our help. They are our neighbours, but more than that, they can benefit from our help. Jesus tells us that we will enter the kingdom of heaven when we assist those most in need.
So that is why “Black Lives Matter”. Yes, every life matters. But until black lives matter as much as other lives matter, we all matter much less in the scheme of things in this life. For society is not “Them” and “Us”. It’s just “Us”.
And so, may we realise that all are our neighbours, especially those who need our help most, and may we be guided by the comfortable words of our Saviour Jesus Christ, to whom must be ascribed all might, majesty, dominion, and praise both now and evermore. AMEN.