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The Thirteenth Sunday after Trinity
by J.A. Matheson
from COMMON PRAYER, Volume Six: Parochial Homilies for the Eucharist 
Based on the Lectionary of the Book of Common Prayer, 1962, Canada. (p. 128-130)
St. Peter Publications Inc. Charlottetown, PEI, Canada.  Reprinted with permission of the publisher.

Galatians 5:16f     St. Luke 10:25f

“Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, 
when I come again, I will repay thee.” (St. Luke 10.35)

The traditional interpretation of the Parable of the Good Samaritan which comes down to us from the Church Fathers points out that there are five characters in this story: 1) the poor man who lies wounded in the ditch, 2) the first passer-by who pays no attention to the wounded man whatsoever, 3) the second passer-by who notices the man, but chooses not to do anything, 4) the Samaritan who has compassion on the victim of robbery, and takes him to the inn where he has his wounds attended to, and hires 5) the innkeeper to continue this care until his return.

The classical interpretation of this Parable further informs us that the Samaritan, is our Saviour Jesus Christ. He presents himself as a Samaritan in this parable because like that race, he was an outcast among the Jewish people. The journey upon which the Samaritan has embarked is the Incarnation: the Son of God leaving his Father’s side, coming to earth in order to help mankind, and then returning to his Father, until, as the Creed teaches, “he shall come again.” The poor man the Samaritan pulls out of the ditch represents the human race, set upon by robbers, that is to say the forces of evil, who have stripped mankind of its righteousness and inflicted the wounds of sin. The Priest and the Levite who pass by represent the attempts of Old Testament religion to help mankind.

Its help is ineffective because neither the sacrifices of the Jewish priesthood nor the personal holiness of the Levitical law were sufficient to rescue mankind from the place of injury and certain death into which it had fallen.  Neither the sacrifices nor the personal piety of the Jews were in themselves sinful, as St. Paul points out in his Epistle to the Galatians; but without charity, without love of neighbour, these offerings made to God were completely ineffective. That is why it was necessary for him who is both the great High Priest and the fulfillment of the law to come and give a new commandment: “that ye love one another.” (John 13.34) The Good Samaritan, who is Jesus Christ, sacrificed himself upon the Cross, and fulfilled the law most perfectly, for the love of mankind, for the sake of mankind.

Now, this classical interpretation of the Parable of the Good Samaritan, which sees it as an illustration of the love of God at work in history is very important. We should commit it to memory, and meditate upon it during the coming week.

But the interpretation and understanding of any parable, indeed, any part of the Bible, should not stop with what it teaches us about salvation history. We must also seek to understand its relationship to our personal and individual salvation histories. There is a certain sense (and when I say “certain,” I mean definite) in which the poor man in the ditch is each one of us. For which one of us has not suffered as a result of the assaults of the devil? Which one of us has not been stripped of our righteousness, that is, which one of us was not born in original sin? And which one of us has not been seriously wounded by the individual sins we commit from day to day? Which one of us does not recognize the need for the help of some Good Samaritan, some Saviour? Those of us who are of the community of the redeemed, of the number who have been pulled from the ditch, let us say, know that we have been saved, first of all, by Holy Baptism. And we know that we have been continually ministered to by God’s grace working through Holy Communion and the other sacraments. We experience daily the healing of our injured souls. The Church is the inn to which we have been carried by our Saviour, and it is in the Church that we experience his healing aid.

And so our Lord is our Good Samaritan. But there is also a sense in which we are the innkeeper, the person to whom the Samaritan entrusted the injured traveller. Having been restored to health by the charity of the Good Samaritan, we are each called to do the work of the innkeeper. As members of the Church, we are called to help others who are in need, those whom Jesus the Good Samaritan brings to us. “Sinners ourselves, now redeemed, and brought into God’s house, we are commanded to be continually showing mercy on other sinners.” (John Keble, Sermons for the Christian Year, Sundays After Trinity XIII-End, p. 23) As a Christian family, we have a mission to the world, to aid those who are hungry, homeless, and who have not heard the Gospel. We have a mission within our own community, within our own parish, to take care of those in material and spiritual need. “Take care of him,” is Jesus’ commandment to each and every one of us. To whom can you reach out? the sick in hospital, those confined to nursing homes or other institutions, the lonely, the single parent, the student away from home for the first time, the lapsed, the unregenerate. How can you fulfil the commandment, “Take care of him?”

We must never allow our religion to be like the religion of the priest, or Levite. Religious ceremony or personal holiness is not enough in itself. To this must be added the love of neighbour. Remember, this parable was told in response to the lawyer’s question: “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?” And the answer which Jesus gives amounts to this: if we wish to have any part of eternal life, we must be concerned about one another. Love God, yes; but love your neighbour as well. “This is the Law and the Prophets.” This is the totality of religion.

Finally, why do you suppose it is that we who have been shown so much love by God are often so very unloving? Is it because we do not have enough faith in our Lord? In this Parable, the injured man was left in the care of the innkeeper, who was given two pence and told that when the Samaritan returned, he would pay whatever else it cost to take care of the injured man. This required faith on the part of the innkeeper. He was going to make expenditures without knowing how much these would be or how long the Samaritan would be gone. Would he really return that way? And could he be sure of payment if he did return? The Gospels are full of statements made by our Lord, both in parable form (such as the parables of the 10 virgins, of the talents, and of the steward) and direct warnings, that though he is going away, he will return again, to take account of how faithful those who have been left behind have been in using the gifts with which they have been endowed. Furthermore, each is going to be rewarded or punished, according to his desserts. We are assured by our Lord, that whatever time, energy, or money we expend in the building up of his Kingdom, will be repaid. “No one who gives up that which is most valuable for his sake, and the sake of the building up of the Body of Christ will go unrewarded.” (Keble, as above, p. 29 paraphrased) Do you believe that? Do you trust our Lord’s promise? If so, you had better do something about it. “Blessed are those servants” our Lord says, “who when he returns, he finds faithful.” (Matthew 12.37) But woe unto those who have squandered and misused that with which they have been entrusted.

God has given each of us talents and resources, skills and abilities. But he has also given each of us a mission to work with him, the Good Samaritan, for the salvation of the world. Let us, in this Holy Communion, offer ourselves, all that we are, all that we have, for the fulfillment of this holy calling.