When a lawyer tried to find a loophole to limit the requirement to love his neighbour as himself, Jesus Christ told the parable of the good Samaritan. In today's Gospel reading, we hear the story of the Good Samaritan and are reminded of the nature of unconditional love.
The Lord’s parable does not set limits on what it means to love our neighbour. He tells us about a Jewish man who was robbed, beaten, and then left for dead on the roadside. Obviously, anyone who saw him in that condition would have an obligation to help him. Religious leaders, who were obliged to help the man under Old Testament law, walked by without a backward glance.
Ironically, it was a Samaritan who stopped to help the man. Even though he knew that the Jews despised and had nothing to do with Samaritans, he responded with boundless compassion. He spontaneously sacrificed his time, energy, and resources to bring a man who was a stranger and a foreigner back to health. Even the lawyer got the point of the story, for he saw that the one who treated the man as a neighbour was “The one who showed mercy to him.”
The Lord used the story of the Good Samaritan to teach us about what it means to share in His life. Out of compassionate, boundless love, Christ came to heal us from the self-imposed pain and misery that our sins have worked on our souls. He came to conquer our slavery to the fear of death, even though we are undeserving.
As Saint Maria of Paris explains, "No amount of thought will ever result in any greater formulation than the three words, 'Love one another,' so long as it is love to the end and without exceptions." To love without exception means to be undiscriminating in our love, and to love without limits of what somebody deserved.
As Saint Maria goes on to explain, "At the Last Judgment I will not be asked whether I satisfactorily practiced asceticism, nor how many prostrations and bows I have made before the holy table. I will be asked whether I fed the hungry, clothed the naked, visited the sick and the prisoner in jail. That is all I will be asked."
This critique of false piety reminds us that love is far more important than whether we are perceived to be righteous by the measure of our religion. St Marina's words draw a parallel to the parable, where the religious leaders failed to show love and mercy toward their neighbour despite their esteemed role in society. If Christ is like anyone in this story, He is the Samaritan. He was despised and rejected, and yet He still showed unconditional love to those who hated him.
The Gospel reading concludes with an order from Christ - "Go and do likewise." As we prepare for the Nativity Season, we must ask ourselves whether we are loving within limits. Are we choosing who to love based on whether they love us back, or whether they are 'acceptable' to love? Or do we have compassion for everyone we encounter, just as the Samaritan did?