In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
If we were to read all four Gospels in one go, I wonder which word would come to our minds to sum up all that we had read.
Perhaps it would be the word ‘Love’, perhaps the word ‘Hope’, but perhaps also the word ‘Life’. For instance, in the Gospels Christ calls Himself ‘the Bread of Life’, ‘Eternal Life’, ‘the Word of Life’, and ‘the Resurrection and the Life’. Also the divine Apostle John writes at the beginning of his Gospel that ‘in Him there was life’ and that ‘those who come to Him have life’.
We can see this most clearly of all in the fact that the central and most important event in the life of Christ is of course His Resurrection from the dead, His overcoming of death. But also throughout the Gospels, there are countless miracles, both resurrections and healings which in the last few weeks have been recounted to us in the Sunday Gospels. And healings, like resurrections, are restorations to Life.
In today’s Gospel, for example, Christ is asked about the commandments, which are to love God and to love our neighbour, and we are told that if we fulfil these commandments, then we shall ‘live’. Christ gives life. And this is also the theme of the parable in today’s Gospel.
This parable is that of the Good Samaritan. We probably know it very well and we understand through it that God calls us to show love for every person whom He wills us to meet, whomever they may be, wherever and whenever we may meet them. However, there is also a spiritual understanding of this parable, which is, as follows.
A certain man goes down from Jerusalem to Jericho. A certain man means any man, any one of us. Jerusalem signifies heaven and Jericho signifies the earth. This is the destiny of us all, to be on earth, although our home is in heaven.
This man falls among thieves who strip him of his raiment, wounding him and leaving him half-dead. Here the thieves are the demons who attack us through our weaknesses and wound us, leaving us weak and spiritually dying, having lost grace and faith, in sorrow and despair.
A priest and then a Levite pass by. By them we understand those who, whatever their outward rank and duty, have hard hearts and show no love, for they are hypocrites and ‘pass by on the other side’.
However a Samaritan passes by and helps the man, showing compassion. Although the Samaritan does not share the fullness of the outward faith, his heart, as we would say, is in the right place and he shows compassion. This Samaritan, the Good Samaritan, represents Christ, Who was rejected by the Jews, but had the essential compassion which the Jews did not have.
The Samaritan, that is Christ, went to the man and bound up his wounds and poured in oil and wine and then set the man on his own beast. This is what Christ did for us: He came to us. In other words He took on our human nature, He became man, one of us. He then bound up our spiritual wounds with His words of Life and poured on us the Love and Hope of salvation, the oil and wine of our souls. Then he set us on his own beast, in other words he gave us Faith with which we are able to walk.
The Samaritan then took the man to an inn, cared for him and gave the innkeeper two pence to look after the man, telling the innkeeper that if it cost more, he would repay him when he returned. By the inn, we would understand the Church, where men can receive Christ’s healing and care. The innkeeper is in particular the priest, the dispenser or agent and channel of sacramental grace and healing. But it is true that all members of the Church are also innkeepers, dispensers of spiritual and other help to those in the world around us.
The two pence represent the two ways in which we are saved. First of all, we need to repent through prayer and fasting. That is the first penny. The second penny, however, is the grace of the sacraments that we receive from God in response to our repentance and prayer and fasting. These two pence together form a virtuous circle. And if we members of the Church of God, ‘innkeepers’, stretch ourselves and give more of ourselves, then Christ will reward us when He returns at the end of the world.
This then is the spiritual meaning of today’s parable. Christ tells it to the lawyer who knows the commandments but, like some eternal intellectual, does not apply them. And Christ says to him: ‘Go and do thou likewise’. And today Christ says to each one of us also: ‘Go and do thou likewise’.