July 10, 2010


15th Sunday - C
Luke 10:25-37

Being or Doing. What is First?

In the gospels, those who oppose Jesus often try to justify themselves. [1] In the case of the scholar of the law in this passage, the attitude of self-righteousness leads him to ask for what he "must do to inherit eternal life." There is a paradox here. If eternal life is something to inherit (from God, that is), how can it be gained by what he does? Because he relies on his action, and not God's free gift of love, he cannot be satisfied with Jesus' answer. And so he keeps asking.

The Samaritan is well-known for his actions in taking care of the victim. As a result, we, as readers and listeners of the parable, often overlook the more essential description of the man, namely his attitude. When Jesus introduces him, Jesus first points out that "he was moved with compassion at the sight." This is the same attitude of Jesus when he meets the widow of Nain who is on her way to burry her only son in Luke 7:11-13. [2]

Acts of charity have their place in Christian living. But first, we must be grateful to God for God's gracious love and God's free gift of salvation. The gift of life, both now and in eternity, is truly our inheritance from God.

Then, if we adapt Jesus' attitude like the Samaritan, then we become more like Him. In this way, our actions will be more authentic acts of love and not the result of our self-righteousness. Thus, what we do on behalf others becomes both a response and an extension of God's love for us.

[1] Here, and Luke 16:15, as pointed out by Luke Timothy Johnson, The Gospel of Luke. Sacra Pagina Series, Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1991, p. 172.
[2] Ibid., p. 173

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