15th Sunday C
Sunday 10th July 2022
The Gospel Paraphrased
There are many fine translations of the Gospels readily available. This paraphrase is not meant to replace them. Rather the intention here is to offer a more contemporary rendering so that you can imaginatively translate the Gospel in your own situation.
This Sunday's Gospel Paraphrased
Look, a certain expert in the Law of Moses, stood up and, to test and undermine Jesus, asked, ‘What should I do to enjoy eternal life?’ He said to him, ‘What is written in the Law? How do you understand it?’ He answered him saying, ‘You must love the Lord your God with all of your heart, with all of your soul, with all of your strength and with all of your mind. And your neighbour as yourself.’ And he answered him, ‘You have answered correctly. Go and do this and you will live.’ But he, trying to justify himself, asked Jesus, ‘But just who is my neighbour?’ So Jesus answered him:
A man was travelling down from Jerusalem to Jericho when he was attacked by thieves. They stripped him of his clothes, bashed him up and, running off, left him half-dead. And it happened that a certain priest was travelling down that road. He saw the man, and passed by on the other side. Then along came a Levite. When he came to the spot, he also looked at the man and he too passed by on the other side of the road. Then a certain Samaritan came along the road, saw the man, and his insides churned with compassion. He came to the man, bandaged his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, lifted him on his own beast, carried him to an inn and took care of him. The next day, when he was leaving, he took two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper saying, ‘Now, look after this man. I’ll be coming back this way and if the expenses are more than this I will reimburse you.’
Then Jesus asked, ‘Which of these three proved himself a neighbour to the man?’ He replied, ‘The one who showed mercy.’ Jesus replied, ‘Go and do the same.’
The Psalms are the ancient prayers of the Jewish people, here paraphrased into contemporary language.
This Sunday's Psalm
Ps 68:14, 17, 30-31, 33-34, 36
My prayer is to you, O God of mercy.
In the richness of your mercy answer me with your salvation.
In the abundance of your kindness, answer me!
Let the compassion of your face shine on me.
I am poor and sorrowful,
let your salvation raise me on high to safety.
I will sing praise to the name of God
glorifying him with thanksgiving.
The humble will see this and rejoice.
It will give life to the hearts of those seeking God.
For God listens to the poor
and does not despise those in captivity.
God will save Zion
and rebuild the cities of Judah.
Those who live there will be secure in their inheritance. They will love the name of the Lord.
Words cannot contain our desire for God but they help direct our minds and hearts towards God's love and express our needs.
This Sunday's Prayer
Loving God, let compassion a guiding light in my life. As I know your deep abiding love for me, may I show that love in the care I have for others, especially those in need. I ask this in Jesus’ name, confident that you will hear me.
The Commentaries Summarised
As a Church we are in a web of wisdom that comes to us both from tradition and contemporary writers. This section offers a summary of some commentaries on the Gospel. Also below is a list of the books and articles that have been consulted in compiling this Sunday's "Pray As You Can" and which could be used for further reading.
This Sunday's Commentary
This fine parable, a gem of a story that draws us in to confront our own behaviour, was told to a hostile audience. The lawyer, an expert in the Mosaic Law which covered both religious and civic life, truly was an expert. He responded with alacrity when Jesus asked his question, ‘What is written in the Law?’ The answer he gives shows that he well knows about the generosity of self demanded by the Law: fullness of love towards God and deep respectful love towards one’s neighbour. But the question, ‘Who is my neighbour?’ shows a mindset of minimisation and rationalisation that undermines the intention of the Law. He wants to know how small the group is to whom he must show love.
In the parable, the two who walked by the injured man, the priest and Levite, were experts in the Law yet they did nothing for someone so obviously in need. The Samaritan, from a tribe hated primarily for their heretical understanding of the Law, is moved by compassion and helps in a practical manner. The verb used here for his response is the same used of Jesus when he saw the grieving widow of Nain (Lk 7:11) The Samaritan’s response comes from the gut and his actions reveal the loving response of love demanded of the Law: he did to the injured man what he himself would have wanted for himself.
The genius of this parable lies in the fact that no explanations are given for anyone’s behaviour except the Samaritan, who was moved by compassion. We are left wondering how we would act in such a situation – with compassion or moving on with one of the myriad of excuses that we have to not get involved in the troubles of others.
Christian conversion is promoted by conversation. This section is a response to and a development on the knowledge gained from the commentary section.
This Sunday's Exposition
Law can be a dangerous thing. In theory, its intention is to facilitate good behaviour yet, in reality, it is often used to justify the most abhorrent. In this Sunday’s Gospel, the Law is mentioned for the first time in Luke’s Gospel since the Infancy narratives. There Jesus, the revelation of God in human flesh, was shown to fulfil the Law. Here, in the attitude of the lawyer, we see a mentality that debased the law into an instrument of attack. The lawyer knew the answers to his questions. Probably that second question was the real thrust of his attack- where is Jesus going to draw the line between people. Who is neighbour and who is not? People readily fight over that. If you doubt that, start up a discussion in a public place over the refugee issue.
Jesus turns the whole issue around. While the lawyer’s question was to narrow the group of people to whom one should show care, Jesus’ parable and subsequent question, ‘Who proved himself neighbour?’ shifts the emphasis to ask, ‘what type of heart do you have?’ The Samaritan, a heretic in terms of the Law, showed basic human compassion, while the priest and Levite, both experts of the Law, walked callously by an obviously abused and injured man. No explanation is given for their behaviour. If common compassion is lacking in a person, Law, even the best of law will only be used to justify abhorrent behaviour.
Reflection is an essential element of our growth in Christ. As we reflect over what we have learnt and ponder it in our hearts, we come to recognise the presence of God in our lives.
This Sunday's Reflection
There are two parts to this parable: what happens out on the road and what happens at the inn. The second part addresses a real fear we have when getting involved in another’s trouble – how far do we go? At the inn, we see two things in the Samaritan’s behaviour. Firstly, he did what was needed and then he went on with his way. His care involved inconvenience and expense, yes, but it did not consume his life. He did not stay around to nurse the man to health, or to hear the man express his appreciation and thanks. No, the Samaritan was his own person. He had his own life to live.
Secondly, he didn’t place excessive expectations on the innkeeper. A common trait of ‘do-gooders’ is to expect others, often at expense to themselves, to join in helping. In contrast, the Samaritan, just because he was caring generously for the injured man, did not expect the innkeeper to do the same. The Samaritan was his own person. He could care without having others confirm his work.
When we prove ourselves to be neighbours to another, it not only involves showing practical compassion towards need. It also means that we are realistic about our own lives. We need to walk away when the job is done.
Looking at art works or movies is a great way to open ourselves to the meaning of the Gospels. Seeing can bypass our preconceived notions, giving us new vistas of enlightenment. With painting or sculpture one needs to sit quietly and absorb the dynamics of the piece. The drama of movies more easily engages us and offers a way to conversation about the Gospel with other members of your family.
This Sunday's Visual Meditation
The parable of the Good Samaritan has always struck a chord in artists hearts. Many did a number of versions of the scene. There is so much to choose from.
- This painting by Vincent Van Gogh captures the effort the Samaritan had to endure to help the man. The priest and Levite walk casually in the background. It was inspired by this painting by Eugène Delacroix (click red text)
- Rembrandt produced a number of different scenes from this story: Landscape with the Good Samaritan, a sketch of the Samaritan pouring wine and oil into the wounds, The Samaritan carrying the man into the inn. (click red text)
- The painting by Ferdinand Hodler captures the tenderness of the Samaritan. Another version by the same artist. (click red text)
- Jacoppo Bassano (click red text)
The purpose of mulling meditations is to offer a few ideas that one can mull about while doing other occupations. There are many things we do in our day that do not require our full attention - some things which are largely done on automatic pilot - like driving a car or peeling the potatoes. While we give these our attention, part of our mind is still at work mulling on other things and unless it is given something positive to feed on, we easily feed on negative thoughts. Personally I find mulling time the most likely time for God to get through to me. Because I am not so conscious of myself, God gets through the cracks and opens my heart to look at life differently.
Two practical times for mulling can be when exercising and when driving. Some small preparations for integrating such prayer into these exercises can be helpful.
As you do your preparatory stretches, pray the line of the Psalm "I praise you God for I am wonderfully made!"
Similarly when doing your concluding stretches use the prayer of St Clare "Praised be you, my God, for creating me!"
Have some music that you find helps you turn you mind and heart to God and play that for the first 10 minutes or so of your trip.
This Sunday's Mulling Meditation
As you go through this week, mull on the various needy people who come across your path. Ponder on what you can do. What is realistically possible? What can you do? When do you have to move on?
In the Letter of James, we are told that the Scriptures are like a mirror in which we can see ourselves. In this type of meditation we take a piece of Scripture, hold it before us and consider what echoes within our heart. These echoes help us to see who we are before God and how we are loved. What usually echoes in us are situations that we are dealing with in our lives. When something strikes us, we do not actively try to solve the situation or work it through. Rather we sit holding it in God's love. The point of such a meditation is to make space within the situation for God's love to be. In 'sitting with' such a situation, painful or sad, we come to recognise the love of God that is at work on our lives. The suggestions for Mirror reflections can also be used for Exercise reflections but wouldn't be advised for Driving Prayer as often some degree of emotion or distraction might rise in such prayer.
This Sunday's Mirror Meditation
Rest in the love of your God.
We all experience difficult situations where we see a great need and find ourselves inadequate. In your recent experience, ponder on one situation that challenged you. How did you react, defensively or with compassion? If you acted defensively, ask yourself what ‘reasons’ you gave not to help. Now that you are removed from the situation, how justified were the reasons. Could you have acted differently?
If you acted with compassion, how drawn into the situation did you become? Were you too involved or were you able to keep your life in balance?
Looking back on the situation, imagine how you could have acted differently.
Rest in the love of your God.
Suggestions for the Programme
The elements of the programme can be used in any way that helps your prayer. The suggestions below are fairly simple ways of using this programme.
Become conscious of your God
Hymn or poem
Reading of Gospel text
Mulling over a reflection
Become conscious of your God
Reading of Gospel text and reflection
The programme can also be used for Staff Prayer. How you may put together such a prayer would be influenced largely by the size and dynamics of your staff. For example, a smaller staff group might be able to use discussion of a movie as a way of exploring the meaning of a Gospel.
A painting illustrating the Gospel could be displayed on an interactive board
Reading of the Gospel
Invitation for share reflections
Reading of part of the Gospel
One or two of the mulling themes
Time for reflection
- Love is His Word by Luke Connaughton
- Let there be peace on earth by Jill Jackson Miller and Sy Miller
- God is Love by David Haas
- A New Commandment by Anon.