23rd Sunday After Pentecost
As we begin the 40 day fast towards Christmas today, it is very fitting that the Gospel reading today is that of the Good Samaritan. In this Gospel reading, Christ speaks a parable about a Samaritan man, who showed kindness and love to another fellow human being. As the story goes, there was a man who was traveling down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he was beaten by robbers along the way. What is interesting is that Jerusalem symbolizes the place of salvation and peace, while Jerico, symbolizes a place of passions. And so he was departing the holy place to travel to a place of sin and suffering. So while he was on this journey, he was robbed, beaten, and left for dead by robbers, which symbolized the demons whose goal is to destroy man.
And so when all hope is lost for the man, and he was dying on the side of the road, that's when a Priest showed up. This Priest, who was viewed as the holiest in those days, instead of helping his fellow man, walked by and chose not to help. After that, a Levite came, who would be considered like a Deacon in those days, also showed up. Instead of helping the poor man he too walked by and chose not to help. Finally, a Samaritan came. In that time, this would surely mean that the man was done for. The Jews and Samaritans hated each other, so a Samaritan seeing a Jew wounded on the side of the road, would surely try to end his life. That, or he would surely ignore him especially if a Priest and Levite did.
And yet, this Samaritan did that which shattered all stereotypes, he showed compassion on this injured Jew, took him, bound his wounds and left him in the care of an innkeeper. Not only that, but he offered to pay for all the expenses that the innkeeper would have to incur. He did this to a man, who he had no relation with; in fact they were complete strangers. If you think about it, this Samaritan was probably traveling somewhere probably important. And yet, he did not give the excuse: I don't have time to help this man, I must hurry up to where I need to go. He did not see this assistance as a burden but rather he showed the ultimate love for another man. He saw a man in need and acted selflessly.
So when we see someone in need of trouble, we should stop and see if we are able to help them. We should not say to ourselves that we will just let someone else take care of it. Is it not true, that if we see something that is of material gain to us, like a hundred dollar bill on the road, would we not stop and pick it up before anyone else does? Therefore, when we see someone in need, we should treat them like we would if we found treasure on the side of the road. In fact, this makes us richer than earthly treasure since we are given the blessing of God by helping the less fortunate.
So as we enter into this period where we prepare for the feast of the Nativity, we should not forget that this time is not just for fasting and giving up good foods. It is said that in the Church, these preparatory fasting periods consist of 4 pillars: fasting, prayer, repentance and charity. Charity is showing our love for the less fortunate, not just through money, but through any sort of need that they have. Sometimes, people who are in need of charity just simply need an ear to listen to them. We should be willing and ready to do such. We should put away that excuse that we do not have time to help people around us. The fasting period also calls us to put away entertainment, we should have plenty of time to help those around us. Imagine how much more time we would have by not spending time on social media, movies, games, news (especially today), and other things that distract us. If we put those away, suddenly we have all the time in the world and don;t know what to do with it! So I would say, take it and give that time to God through the love of others.
"Our neighbors are right here and their needs are before our eyes. Let each of us do our best, not to learn who our neighbor supposedly is, but to actually help our neighbor. We feel good about ourselves when we feel our neighbors are close to us. And the commandment is for us to love our neighbor as ourselves, so that we may have eternal life" (Metropolitan Dyonisius of Servia).