To listen to today’s homily, please select the audio file below:
“Jewish Settlers, Attacked, Needed Help. A Palestinian Doctor Didn’t Hesitate.” That was the headline of a story in the New York Times this week. Doctor Ali Shroukh was driving from a west bank town to Jerusalem to pray at the end of the Moslem celebration of Ramadan when he came upon a car of Jewish settlers overturned after a Palestinian gunman shot and killed its driver, Rabbi Michael Mark, 46, father of 10 children. His family were injured in the incident and the Palestinian doctor treated them till help arrived.
“His response,” the Times article said, “ was an act of kindness in a conflict often bereft of it, particularly amid the violence of the last nine months, when Palestinians have killed more than 39 Israeli. Over 210 Palestinians have also been killed, many while committing an attack or intending to do so.
Who is treated and who is not, is a contentious issue.”
A story like that helps us to understand the Parable of the Good Samaritan, which Jesus told in response to the question of a scholar of the law, “ Who is my neighbor?” The Samaritans were the Palestinians of Jesus’ time. Just a few Sundays ago, you may remember in our gospel story,
James and John, two of Jesus’ disciples, wanted fire to come down from heaven upon a Samaritan village that refused to let Jesus and his disciples pass through. You remember what the Samaritan woman in John’s gospel said to Jesus when he asks her for a drink of water. “How can you, a Jew, ask me a Samaritan woman for a drink?” (John 4, 9)
Hard feelings and the animosity between the two peoples were strong. Acts of okindness between them were almost unheard of. Yet Jesus says that’s what loving your neighbor means. A neighbor can be nice or difficult, great or horrible, easy to talk to or hard to figure out, just like us or not like us at all. Jesus says you have to love them all, and that’s not easy.
When we love our neighbor that way we love people the way God loves them. Neighbors can come in all shapes and sizes. God loves them all, “the long and the short and the tall.”
Neighborhoods, too, can be bigger than the one we live in. What about the neighborhood of our world? More and more it seems our world neighborhood is breaking down into armed camps or walled fortresses. More and more it seems we are concerned, like the priest and the Levite in our parable today, with getting where we are going and ignoring anybody else, whether it’s poor immigrants fleeing from wars or economic hardship, or people without jobs and what they need to take care of their families. And what about the racial tensions that are pulling our own country apart now? We’re looking at a wounded world, a wounded country; we need to stop and take care of it.
Our gospel reading is really a direct challenge to each of us and to all of us, isn’t it? Thank God for the Palestinian doctor who stopped to care of a family of Jewish settlers. That kind of love brings healing far beyond that time and place. That kind of love is the only kind that will heal our world, and we ask the Lord to make us capable of loving like that.