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effective August 6th, AD 2006
“Not that we are sufficient of ourselves ... but our sufficiency is from God.”Ordinary of the Mass
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This parable of the Good Samaritan is one of the pieces of writing in the Gospels that are beyond the elegance of any preacher to improve upon. Even those with little or no devotion to the Faith of Jesus Christ have heard of Good Samaritan—someone willing to help a fellow man in need, even though it earns him nothing and may even come at a cost to himself.
The parable is not an isolated instance of our Lord urging mutual charity among His people. Somewhat later in His public life, the Pharisees tried to test Him with the famous question asking “which is the greatest Commandment in the Law.” The answer was much the same as what we hear today when this certain lawyer tried to test Him with the question: “What must I do to gain eternal life?” “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thine whole heart, and thine whole soul, and with thine whole strength, and with thine whole mind; and thy neighbor as thyself.”
As to this urgency of seeing to the needs of those in distress, our Lord was quite explicit in speaking to His disciples just prior to the Last Supper. He described the proceedings of the Judgment Day as being like a shepherd dividing the goats from the sheep in his field. On Judgment Day our Lord will place on one side those who fed the hungry and the thirsty, who sheltered the stranger and clothed the naked, and visited the sick and the imprisoned. These will be welcomed into everlasting happiness, as He said, “for in doing these thing for the least of My brethren you did them for Me.” Those who performed not these acts of kindness would “depart into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels.”  For in refusing the necessities of those in need, we refuse Jesus Christ Himself.
Saint Paul, quite correctly, points to the fact that eternal salvation is based on the virtue of faith; the unquestioning belief in what God has revealed, simply because God has revealed it, and He is incapable of deception. Only those of the Faith are justified—gathered in as His people, His adopted sons and daughters, who glorify God by the virtues they exercise in this life. But Saint James (whom we believe to have been a close relative of our Lord; a cousin, perhaps) tells us that faith alone is not enough. “Faith alone, unless it has works, is dead in itself.” He is not talking about the “dead works of the law,” the ritual observances of the Mosaic Law which no longer have any value—but about feeding and clothing our brother or sister who is in want—“giving aid to orphans and widows in their tribulation, and keeping one’s self unspotted from the world.” It is not enough just to believe, for “the devils also believe, and yet they tremble”!
The need for this mutual charity is not debatable—one cannot argue with the words of the Son of God, Himself.
It is also true that in the modern world many of the opportunities for individual mutual charity have been replaced by the efforts of society at large. The modern Samaritan would not take the victim to an inn to pour oil and wine on his wounds—today’s Good Samaritan would call 911 and an ambulance would take the victim to a hospital to be treated by doctors and social workers. The socialized structures of society have replaced much of the charity of individuals and private institutions of years ago. But there still are many opportunities for looking after individuals with needs and wants.
Yet, it is possible that we in the twenty-first century have enough time and space between us and the culture in which Jesus lived that we have lost sight of the first part of this Great Commandment—that we have given ourselves to think that our salvation is through “works alone.” To the Jew of the Old Testament, as well as to the Christians of centuries gone by, nothing was more important than the love of God. We might even say that to these people God seemed more “real” than He is to us modern people. To the people of the Bible, the Divine Presence was “a pillar of cloud by day, and a pillar of fire by night.” The followers of Christ saw genuine miracles worked: the feeding of the crowd and the turning of water into wine; the healing of the deaf, the dumb, the blind, and the leper; and even the resurrection of a few from the dead. In the modern world we tend to attribute our miracles to ourselves, giving God far less credit for what He works today through human hands.
In the modern world we have a foolish sort of “political correctness” which frowns on those of us who even think to mention God in public, to attribute our bountiful existence to Him, or suggest that He might be the motivation for charity towards one another, or that His natural laws must be the basis for our national laws. Secular Humanism has become the established religion—an establishment so clearly forbidden by the Law of our Land.
By no means to I want to belittle any work of necessary charity—whether it be done by the individual, the Church, the community, or even the government. Doing such good works for those truly in need is the spoken will of God. But please do not loose sight of the first part of our Lord’s answer.
Private prayer and public worship must be part of our lives—not just incidentals, occasionally added on for Sundays and Holy days. The love of God must be reflected in the love we should have for our families, and for our friends, and for our neighbors in need. The love of God must be reflected in a thirst for justice and peace, and in the joy of seeing God’s law at work in governing the world in which we live.
“Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” But first: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thine whole heart, and thine whole soul, and with thine whole strength, and with thine whole mind.
 Matthew xx; Mark xii.
 Gospel: Luke x: 23-37.
 Matthew xxv: 31-46.
 Romans iii: 21-26.
 James ii: 14-26.
 James i: 27.
 James ii: 19.
 Cf. Exodus xiii: 21-22.