Go and do likewise: The Good Samaritan and Laudato Si

“Go and do likewise:”

The Good Samaritan and Laudato Si: A Homily

On the 15thSunday of Ordinary Time, Cycle C

July 14, 2019

“Go and do likewise,” Jesus said at the end of today’s Gospel parable about the Good Samaritan. That means have compassion and act on it for any beaten down and beaten up person that is along your journey through life. That includes Mother Earth.

 Keep before you Jesus’ parable from Luke’s Gospel, but focus with me first on today’s 2ndreading from Paul’s letter to the Colossians. As you heard, it’s about Jesus as “the first born of all creation,” the “preeminent” one in whom all the “fullness” of God dwells, the King of the Universe, the Pantocrator that we celebrate on the last Sunday of each liturgical year. Focus with me on that as we learn from Jesus’ instruction and celebrate God’s love for us, all of us. It prepares us today to “Go and do likewise” when we conclude our celebration of God’s love in a special way.

The combination of those two readings has particular application in our time with regard to planet earth. Pope Francis has challenged us to address that issue and respond to in many different ways. It is most clear in his encyclical letter on the Environment, Laudato Si, titled in English Care for Our Common Home. I hope you are familiar with it and have read it. I hope you have a Green Team in your parish living it. We all should be doing so.

The letter to the Colossians presents Jesus the Christ as the key figure in creation and redemption. The Son or Word of God was present with God at creation. Jesus is the cosmic Christ. “In him all things in heaven and on earth were created, … all things through him and for him.” He is “Earth’s Child” as one author puts it, the one who holds all things together, the Creator of all and the Lord of the Universe. All creation is destined to come together in him including in a special way our common home, the earth. Christ and his Spirit are the inner energy of the evolutionary process of the Universe and the ultimate goal of that process. … Unfortunately, we in our time here can leave our poor earth battered at the side of the road, ravaged by our greed, our consumption, our indifference to the deteriorating impact of our lifestyle on our common home, this important part of the cosmic Christ, Jesus.

Today’s scriptures teach us that to be Christian is to be a neighbor, which is to be a person of mercy acting with  effective compassion for others. Pope Francis often repeats that we must hear the cry of the poor AND also the cry of the earth. To respond to the cry of one person but not to the cry of the earth is to leave millions to die of our neglect — from famine, floods, desertification, lack of water, exhausted seas, etc. Laudato Sidescribes what is happening on our planet.

Moses taught long ago in our first reading from Deuteronomy that we cannot plead ignorance of God’s guidance. It’s within us. Love of neighbor, not just our fellow Americans or Catholics or people of our own race and ethnic heritage , but the others, the aliens, those different whom we find among us, residents on this planet with us, perhaps fleeing from where they once lived because of what is happening to our their environment. This is part of today’s immigration crisis.

In today’s Gospel, the good guy is the alien, the different one, the non-Israelite, the non-citizen, the despised Samaritan. The point of Jesus’ story: it is more important to act with compassion toward others than to dither over whether they merit our compassion and attention.  The Good Samaritan not only heals the beaten Israelite in the gutter but pays for his expenses while recovering!

 Jesus’ response to “who is my neighbor” should disturb us all. The central character in the parable is the victimized man by the roadside. He’s one of us. We need to identify with him …, as also with the father and daughter recently photographed dead in the Rio Grande river, running for life, drowning.

 The question facing us all is the question of the scholar to Jesus: what do I need to do to get the prize of eternal life? Are we willing to help when we see need? For our own people in their need, for the earth in its need, for the poor in their need? The neighbor is the one who cares and does what is needed … and even goes beyond.

The good guy here is the despised Samaritan who in a sense, should have passed by the beaten Israelite in the ditch whom his fellow Samaritans despised and who, in turn, despised him. But the Samaritan doesn’t despise what he sees and so passes by on the opposite side of the road. He sees need, cares and acts. He allows his love for the other to break open his heart and his wallet to care for the other.

St. Paul had a great intellect but also a warm and wonderfully kind heart.  So does Pope Francis. In his encyclical he asks us collectively: what are we are doing to our common home? Can we hear the cry of the earth or see how beaten up she is as we go down her roads?

 In the first chapter of his prophetic document on Care for Our Common Home, PopeFrancis asks “What is Happening to our Common Home?” His first chapter paints the picture. He addresses at length several particulars, calling on the overwhelming, fact-based opinion of 99% of the world’s scientists: something bad is happening. Here’s a few elements of the Pope’s list:

·     Pollution and Climate Change through Waste and a Throwaway Culture – starting perhaps with plastics.

·     Water – something indispensable to human life and for support of earth’s ecosystems, but troubled on many fronts due to a growing scarcity of water, especially the quality of water available to the poor.

·     Loss of biodiversity on our planet – loss of forests and woodlands and species of plants and animals.

·     Decline in the quality of human life and the breakdown of societies on many fronts due to environmental deterioration.

·     Global inequality which results from these factors. If we have a flourishing 1% dominating our relatively comfortable country, what might we say about the billions of poor and struggling in the rest of the world.

With today’s gospel in mind, consider these thoughts of Francis:

·     “Generally speaking there is little in the way of clear awareness of problems that especially affect the excluded [the poor and marginalized]. Yet they are the majority of the planet’s population, billions of people. … This is due partly to the fact that many professionals, opinion-makers, communications media and centers of power, [are] located in affluent urban [and suburban] areas far removed from the poor with little direct contact with their problems.”

·     Francis goes on to write: “The problem is that we still lack the culture needed to confront this crisis. We lack leadership capable of striking out on new paths and meeting the needs of the present with concern for all, perhaps [especially] coming generations.”

·     “Different approaches and lines of thought, he writes, have emerged regarding this situation and its possible solutions … [but the solutions proposed are] too much at extremes. “The church has no reason to offer a definitive opinion on solutions. … but we need only to take a frank look at the facts to see that our common home is falling into serious disrepair.”  It’s beat up on the roadside of our progress if you will. “There are regions now at high risk, he writes, and …the present world system is certainly unsustainable from a number of points of view. … He cites a view of St. John Paul II all the way back in 2001: ‘If we scan the regions of our planet, we immediately see that humanity has disappointed God’s expectations.’”

 So, the question of this scholar for us today is not just “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”  It is also “what must I do to help sustain life on this planet long into the future.”

 Jesus’ story gives us the answer: respond to the needs of our brothers and sisters who have fallen victim to robbers, been stripped and beaten and left half-dead – whether one is like us or one who doesn’t like us. We are called to respond with compassion to their plight and Mother Earth’s plight with mercy, spending our resources as needed to save and restore them. We are to be among the Good Samaritans of our world in these days, following the guidance of Jesus, Earth’s Child, the Christ in whom and through whom and for whom all things were created, the one who holds all things together by his presence among us, his Body.

 We are to “Go and do” like that Samaritan if we want a fullness of life on this planet, … and eternal life hereafter.

Fr. Bob Bonnot