By Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz, D.D.
The parable of the Good Samaritan, last Sunday’s Gospel from the tenth chapter of St. Luke, arose from the question asked of Jesus, “who is my neighbor.” Pope Francis often refers to this biblical masterpiece (Luke 10:25-37) as the divine image of the church’s mission in this world.
Across many lands and nations, the church does serve as a field hospital encountering and caring for those who are battered, bruised and beaten and left half dead on the side of the road.
The corporal and spiritual works of mercy are testimony to the fidelity of the church’s ministries. Jesus concluded the parable with his own question. “Who was neighbor to the man who fell in with robbers?” The answer was obvious and echoes through time, “the one who treated him with compassion.” “Go and do likewise” are the final words of Jesus addressed to the doctor of the law and to us.
The ultimate Good Samaritan, of course, is Jesus Christ who demonstrated the heart of service when he washed his disciples feet at the Last Supper. He concluded this astounding action with the mandate, “If I then your Lord and teacher have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that as I have done, so you must do.” (John 13: 14-15).
Our Lord’s actions, teachings, and parables ultimately point to the Cross and flow from it, where in the shedding of his blood he seeks to lift up all people who are assaulted by sin and remain half dead, or half alive on the margins of life. He is the divine physician and the church is his living body in this world, led by the Holy Spirit, to give freely of the gift of the Lord’s love that we have received.” (Matthew 10:8)
Moses, the great teacher of the Old Law, spoke blatantly to the Israelites in the first scripture reading from last Sunday, a teaching in accord with the Good Samaritan narrative. “This command that I enjoin on you today is not too mysterious and remote for you … It’s not up in the sky that you should say who will go up to the sky to get it for us. Nor is it across the sea. No, it is something very near to you, already in your mouths and in your hearts; you only have to carry it out.” (Deuteronomy 30:10-14)
To apply a well-known and likely over-used modern rendering of Moses’ words, the will of God is not rocket science, fellas; rather it is patient, kind and persevering and secured in the Lord’s instructions “to love one another as I have loved you.” (John 13:34)
As an aside, at this time one million miles from earth, after a six-month journey, the James Webb telescope is spreading its wings to probe into the depths of the universe, past and present, in ways hitherto impossible to imagine. Women and men will take another giant step forward to unfold the mysteries of God’s creation, because this telescope, 25 years in the making, is 100 times more powerful than the Hubble telescope which ruled the roost since 1990, but only 340 miles above the earth’s surface.
Telescopes are absolutely essential to explore the mysteries of the physical universe, and it’s exciting to anticipate the pending discoveries. But they have no worth when exploring the mind and heart of Christ. As Moses said, we don’t have to go up into the sky to discover the will of God for our lives. We know it; we only have to carry it out.
On this weekend at our Cathedral of St. Peter the Apostle, we will celebrate Christ the Servant with the ordination of six men to the permanent diaconate who will serve in various parishes throughout our diocese. Specifically, the ministry of the deacon is a labor of loving service at the table of the Word of God, at the Altar of Sacrifice, and at the table of charity or compassion in daily life. The heart and soul of the diaconate is the call to make visible the love of Christ.
We give thanks to God for the deacons, spouses and families who have sacrificed these past five years in preparation for this ministry that has its roots in the apostolic life of the early church. But let us keep in mind that we are all called to fulfill our baptismal promises, the call to holiness, and the Lord’s mandatum to serve with his mind and heart because the risen Lord is in our midst “as one who serves.” (Luke 22:27)
The ugliness of this world regularly gets the headlines, and well before and during our Lord’s time, there were robbers and muggers around, but then and now we give thanks for the Good Samaritans of our lives who are vigilant in their care for others. May the Lord strengthen our resolve to be a light in the darkness at every turn in the road.