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Father Muench Says...

My Christmas story: The Good Samaritan

January 8, 2020

By Father William Muench
NCC columnist

Today, I want to share with you my decision to make Jesus’ Parable of the Good Samaritan my Christmas story this year. Recently, I have noticed a real concern among Catholic writers and speakers that I find personally very challenging. They seemed to be writing right to me. Among other things, they continually challenged me to wonder if the people I minister to are truly dedicated to Jesus and his message.

I know you realize Christmas is our celebration of the incarnation of our Savior, Jesus Christ. In faith, we firmly believe Jesus became a member of this human race, of our human race. You and I belong to a sacred race; Jesus was one of us. We are a blessed people; Jesus was one of us. Jesus came to guide us and to teach us what it means to be the people of God. Jesus’ ministry was to come among us to teach us. His message transformed our world. That message is that God loves us. We are a loved people. As disciples of Jesus, our vocation is to help others recognize how passionately God loves us all. We are called to bring this message of love and peace to our part of the world.

Jesus showed us how when he told the parable of the Good Samaritan. And for that reason, I decided to use Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan my Christmas story. I am certain that you know the story well.

In Luke’s Gospel, the incident begins when a scholar of the law, a Jewish lawyer, asks Jesus the question, “what is the greatest of all the commandments?” There are many commandments and rules in traditional Hebrew law. Jesus gave this man an answer that continues to be important to you and me – the two great commandments: “Love God above all things and love you neighbor as yourself.” In the Gospel story of St. Luke, this lawyer then asks Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus answers him by telling a story, the parable of the Good Samaritan. You know it, don’t you?

A man is traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho. On the way, he is attacked, robbed and badly injured. Jesus’ story says that he was left half dead. Remember this is Jesus’ parable, his carefully crafted story to teach us. A priest on his way to Jerusalem to go to the temple to pray sees the man but passes by. He is anxious to get to prayer. Then a Levite – also on his way to Jerusalem to go the temple – passes by. Then along comes a Samaritan. He treats the man’s wounds, takes him to a nearby Inn, pays to have him cared for and promises to stop by in days to cover any extra expense. An important part of the story is that Jews did not like Samaritans. In fact, they discriminated against them. Yet, this Samaritan is the hero of Jesus’ story.

Jesus asks the lawyer which one was the good neighbor. The lawyer is in a bit of a quandary. He realizes that the Samaritan treated the man kindly, but he knew he was a Samaritan – a people he did not like and discriminated against. However, he honestly answers: “the one who treated him with mercy?” Jesus closes the experience by saying, “Go and do likewise.” Will this be the year that we start treating others for their goodness and stop be blind judges?

We have begun a new year. There is always something special with a new year. It’s a time for a new spirit of conversion. It’s a time to consider how I can become a better person, how I can truly make my world a better place. I decided this year that the message of the Good Samaritan was exactly the challenge that must touch us all. I can only imagine how wonderful our world would be if we all could honestly and openly treat others with the love and care demonstrated by the Good Samaritan. The Good Samaritan noticed that someone needed help, and he did something.

So, a Happy New Year to you all – a new year with many challenges.

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