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A Practical Commentary On Holy Scripture by Frederick Justus Knecht D.D.

[Luke 10: 25–37. Mat. 22:35–40, Mark 12:28–34]

AGAIN, when Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem, He met a doctor of the law, who, hoping to tempt our Lord, asked him, through curiosity: “Master, what must I do to possess eternal life?” Jesus answered: “What is written in the law? how readest thou?” He replied: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself.”

Jesus said to Him: “Thou hast answered right; this do, and thou shalt live.” But the doctor, wishing to justify himself, said: “Who is my neighbour?”

Then Jesus replied with the Parable of the Good Samaritan:

“A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among robbers, who also stripped him; and having wounded him, went away, leaving him half-dead. Now it happened that a certain priest went down the same way, and seeing him passed by. In like manner also a Levite, when he was near the place, and saw him, passed by. But a certain Samaritan, being on his journey, came near him, and seeing him, was moved with compassion. And going up to him, he bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine; and setting him upon his own beast, brought him to an inn and took care of him.

“The next day he took out two pence, and gave them to the innkeeper, and said: ‘Take care of him, and whatever thou shalt spend over and above, I, at my return, will repay thee.’ ” Having finished the parable, Jesus asked the doctor: “Which of these three, in thy opinion, was neighbour to him that fell among the robbers?” The doctor of the law replied: “He that showed mercy to him.” Jesus said to him: “Go, and do thou in like manner.”

 

Fig. 80. Road from Jerusalem to Jericho. (Phot. P. Dunkel.)

Love of our neighbour. He who hopes to be saved must love God with all his heart, and his neighbour as himself. Of the love of God we shall speak in the next chapter: this chapter deals principally with the love of our neighbour, the qualities of which our Lord shows us in His beautiful parable of the Good Samaritan.

The love shown by the Samaritan was, first of all, real, for he felt compassion from his heart for the wounded man, and had a real sympathy with him in his misfortunes. He stopped instantly when he perceived the poor man, and went up to him, whereas the priest and the Levite had both passed by regardless of his state. And because his love was real, it was practical. He wished to help the poor man, and did all in his power to alleviate his sufferings and save his life; he interrupted his journey, tended the wounded man himself all that day, and when his business called him away for a few days, he left him in charge of the innkeeper, paying for his keep, and promising to return. Lastly, the love he showed was universal. He knew that the wounded man was a Jew, the enemy of his people; and he knew that under similar circumstances a Jew would be very unlikely to assist him. All the same he took pity on him, and forgave the enmity shown to the Samaritans by the Jews. In this poor man he saw only a suffering fellow-creature and a brother, and helped him as such.

By this parable, therefore, our Lord teaches us that every man is our neighbour, and that our love ought to be real, practical and universal.

The deeper meaning of the parable. According to the Fathers of the Church the following deeper interpretation can be given to it. Jesus Himself is the Good Samaritan, as proved by His treatment of the robbed and wounded human race. Sin and the devil are the robbers who have despoiled man of his robe of innocence and all supernatural gifts, and grievously wounded him in his natural gifts. Thus man lay, weak, helpless, and half-dead. He still, it is true, possessed his natural life, but he had lost the supernatural life of grace, as well as the prospect of eternal life, and was powerless to raise himself from the misery of sin by any effort of his own. Neither priest nor Levite, i. e. neither sacrifice nor law of the Old Covenant, could help him, or heal his wounds; they only made him realize more fully his helpless condition. Then the Son of God, moved by compassion, came down from heaven to help poor fallen man, living at enmity with God. He healed his wounds with the wine of His Most Precious Blood and the oil of His grace, and took him to the inn, His Church. When He left this earth to return to heaven, He gave to the guardians of His Church the twofold treasure of His doctrine and His grace, and ordered them to tend the still weak man, until He Himself came back to reward every one according to his works. This inconceivable love of the Incarnate Son of God for all men is the great reason why we ought to love our neighbour and even our enemy.

APPLICATION. In the case of the priest and the Levite you can see what a hateful thing is want of compassion. On the other hand, the example of the Samaritan shows you how noble and beautiful is a heart full of pity and a desire to help those in need. Now which heart is yours most like? that of the priest or that of the Samaritan? Do you feel pity for others in their misfortunes? Do you not sometimes feel a wicked joy when evil befalls any one? Do you help the sick or poor as far as you are able? Surely, even if you can give them nothing, you could visit them, show them your sympathy, and pray for them.








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