Monday of the Twenty-seventh Week in Ordinary Time
Commentators on Scripture note that the priest and the Levite who ignore the dying victim have some reasons to pass him by. As we might not offer help to a man standing beside a car with hood open out of wariness for a trap so too the priest and Levite might fear that the apparent victim is actually a decoy. Also, the Jewish clergy may be traveling on the other side of the road because they are on the way to Jerusalem to participate in Temple sacrifice. Handling a corpse would have prohibited the men from performing their professional services.
Still their lack of response to a person likely in desperate need is hardly commendable, much less worthy of eternal life. Entering God’s kingdom requires that we go out of our way to assist others. It happens the moment that our love as eros, seeking our own benefit, melts into love as agape, striving for the good of the other as unrelated to our own. To be sure, there is a connection between the two ways of loving. Human love always begins with eros, which is not necessarily selfish. God’s grace, however, transforms it into His unique and supreme way of caring.
Joe Biden’s story during the vice-presidential debate the other night may help us appreciate this parable. Biden remarked how as a young senator the Majority Leader Mike Mansfield corrected him for criticizing conservative senator Jesse Helms as an awful person. Mansfield told Biden that Helms and his wife had adopted a child with cerebral palsy, a deed indicating goodness. Biden’s lesson was to never judge a person’s motives; one may only judge the person’s actions. The priest and the Levite perhaps passed by the injured man for some plausible reason. But the situation called for a rescue effort, which, from all we know, they failed to provide. The Samaritan, on the other hand, showed himself to be worthy of eternal life by responding heroically to the urgent need.