This is a half-remembered, fully-edited and yet extended reflection from today’s homily at Mass. It’s by no means entirely or exactly what was preached at all but it is a sensitive reworking, and simply provides a little prompt for reflection.
The gospel reading was the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37)
The story of the Good Samaritan is among the savoured stuff of Sunday School teachers. It is a simple story with much appeal.
Samaritans feature often in the gospels – not just played out in parables but in the lived experience of Jesus and his apostles. Remember how he draws close to the Samaritan woman at the well? How he asks her for a drink, whilst his onlookers stand surprised by the way he treads across the boundaries which divide, and how he bridges the gaps which have become filled with animosity, disagreement and suspicion.
In those days, the Samaritans and Jews lived far apart from one another. There was religious difference. There was to be no encounter, no friendship, no love. The story of the Good Samaritan would have stunned Jesus’ listeners.
Jesus creates that common ground upon which people who are different can stand. He shows us us how we can build friendships and relate to one another in a spirit of mutual respect, and with love.
It’s the place where conversation occurs, where there is speaking and listening, and where new possibilities are discovered.
It is a place where hope exists, where it is tangible – passed around like a ball game where the only rule is love.
It is a place of stillness, too, and of gentleness. Where wounds can be tended, where healing takes place, where patience is needed.
It is also a costly place – not necessarily in terms of finance, although the Good Samaritan is willing to pay that price – but perhaps in setting aside some things to which we hold close.
On this common ground our insecurities can easily rise to the surface. And so it is a fragile place too.
But is the place we are called to create and occupy, always being intentional but also willing to be surprised. There has to be honesty and openness, as we discover a shared language where love can be heard.
This common ground is also easily spoiled, easily invaded by others, who do not play by the same rules, and who can unsettle the ground. People whose motives are not the same, and who do not understand what it means to till and work this common ground.
Here, in South Cardiff, we have a unique calling and a daily opportunity to help create and cherish that common ground. To build friendships, engage with difference, in order to fulfil the law of Christ which, quite simply, is to love God and to love one another.
The Samaritan in the story of Jesus had no ulterior motive. There is no indication that he wished to proselytise the man he helps and heals. He doesn’t see him as low lying fruit, easily plucked. He simply meets the need presented to him with love and care and compassion. Perhaps he leaves the rest to God.
The Samaritan man creates that common ground where Love’s possibilities are endless.
But crossing boundaries is a difficult thing to do. It is a tender place where love must reign, and which fosters hope not hostility, reconciliation not rage, peace not pain. We must cross those boundaries with care and tenderness, recognising the fragile ground upon which we walk.
Perhaps, standing outside a community, with a certain perspective, we may think we know what is right for it. We may look from a distance, see the people coming and going and standing around, living their lives, loving their loves, and want to bring our own message to them, do things in a different way, a new way. Perhaps we may even think that we have a truth they need to have, a treasure they need to hold.
Jesus was a Jew but, in his own story, it is the Samaritan who saves. Yes, as Christians, we are commissioned to go and make disciples of all nations but we also forget, at our peril, the command of Jesus to love one another as he has loved us.
Yes, Jesus creates that common ground upon which people who are different can stand. He shows us us how we can build friendships and relate to one another in a spirit of mutual respect, and with love.
We must go and do the same.