Monday of the Twenty-seventh Week in Ordinary Time
(Galatians 1:6-12; Luke 10:25-37)
Along with the parable of the Prodigal Son, the parable of the Good Samaritan has always been one of the most favored readings of the four gospels. Normally it is interpreted today as a lesson on loving one’s enemies. Jews and Samaritans were distrustful of one another as Blacks and Whites, Hindus and Muslims, Russians and Ukrainians are today. The Samaritan’s more than generous care of the wounded Jew shows us that to gain eternal life – the issue motivating the story – one must love her supposed enemies.
In Patristic times this same parable was given a very different reading. Church Fathers did not see it as a story to be contemporized but as an allegory of Salvation History. The man going down the road was Adam, the symbol of all humans. Jerusalem, as the name implies, is the heavenly city of peace. Jericho, which evidently means moon, indicates human mortality. The thieves are the devils who entice the man to sin and then leave him far from God or “half-dead.” The priest and Levite, according to this reading, represent the Old Covenant which is unable to save the sinner. The Samaritan is Jesus himself who ministers to the wounded by binding him, that is symbolically restraining him from sin. The animal represents Christ’s own flesh which carries the wounded man to the inn, a symbol of the Church where people find comfort from the crazed and often dangerous world.
However one reads it, the parable of the Good Samaritan demonstrates Jesus’ mastery of both as story-telling and prophecy. The passage begins by saying the scholar wants to test Jesus. That’s like testing Yo-Yo Ma on the cello. Jesus is the master. He tests the scholar and the rest of us. But his testing is not meant to put us down. Just the opposite, he means to lift us up to the possibility of achieving true happiness.