Good morning, everyone.
Great blessings to be with you again this morning. This would be my last time being here for a little bit because I’m heading back to California tomorrow to continue to discern with a group of monks out there in beautiful Berkeley, California. Some people have it rough, I guess. Right. But we’ll see how that goes. I promise you, I will be back later this year. And for those you’ve known a little bit about my journey, I continue to appreciate all of the prayers and support.
You know, today we hear the parable of the Good Samaritan. It’s perhaps one of the most famous parables of Jesus. It’s one that has impacted us on many levels. It’s even in our secular laws. We all know about Good Samaritan laws when someone attempts to help someone out of the goodness of their heart, and even if they kind of mess it up, they’re protected.
So we know that the Good Samaritan call is something that we all in some way, shape or form aspire to.
Or if anything, we kind of idolize as being the epitome of good.
Yet, if you’re like myself, I find this to be one of the most frustrating parables around.
Because living here in New York City or living in Berkeley, California, we are plagued with lots of suffering around us.
And especially over the last two years, a lot of that suffering has been right in our face.
How many of us even feel comfortable being on the subways anymore?
Because we just don’t know what type of suffering we may encounter.
So we know there are lots of people who need help.
And when we hear this parable, we almost feel okay.
How am I supposed to help these people who I encounter on the streets?
What am I supposed to do when I see someone who’s asking for money?
When I come up the train on Court Street. How can I be a good Samaritan?
Well, it was interesting that this week I also happened to get a newsletter from a place called the St. Francis Inn, which is located in the Kensington section of Philadelphia. This place is very close to my heart because when I was in high school I used to go and work at this soup kitchen shelter run by a group of Franciscan friars and nuns – sisters. It was very transformative in my own faith journey, coming from a very nice suburban background and going into such a criminal infested, drug infested, just poverty stricken area.
It was more than a wake up call. It challenged all of my judgments that I made on people who were in these types of predicaments.
And being very young and very impressionable, it was very important for me to have a complete change of mind and attitude when I was in the thick of it in Kensington.
The newsletter that came from the Saint Francis Inn this past week was written by a priest who I had great respect for because I worked with him, a Franciscan priest back in the nineties. He’s still there working there. He’s now eighty. This priest, Michael Duffy, delivered the homily for Fr. Mychal Judge, who died at 9/11 at his funeral.
But Michael Duffy wrote about how at the scene, for instance, in in Philadelphia, to this day, when people are standing in line waiting to go into the shelter or waiting to receive food, people will come by in their cars. Drive by. Roll down the windows and start yelling obscenities, curses. Putting down people, making fun of them. Sometimes he says that they’ll take bottles and throw them at people who are waiting in line at the end. And in the spirit of the 4th of July, just recently at night, when there are homeless, sleeping outside of the end, sometime people come and throw Roman candles, set them off, and they just burn and blow up in front of the people who are laying on the street.
Now the story hit me not just because it’s repulsive to hear these things, but I would argue that the people who were doing those horrible things to the homeless in Kensington and the Good Samaritan himself were responding to the exact same thing happening within them when they encountered suffering.
They were both responding to a profound sense of insecurity.
Of being terribly uncomfortable with what they were seeing.
Yet, as you can see, as you can imagine, they both responded differently.
Because the person who’s yelling curses and throwing bottles at people when they see something they don’t like, something they don’t understand, something that’s bothersome.
Something that is uncomfortable. They have a quick decision they have to make.
How can they deal with this in some type of way to mitigate what they’re seeing?
To somehow make sense of it in their own mind.
And what they do, of course, is try to dismiss it.
So they can double down on their own security within themselves.
Rejoicing that they aren’t like those people.
Yet the Good Samaritan in a very strange way. Also has the same sense of being uncomfortable with what he is beholding.
Yet rather than lean into securing himself with his own state of life.
He throws himself and puts himself at the mercy of the unknown, of throwing himself right into the thick of what is happening and walking with a person whom he is surely uncomfortable doing and working with.
But knows that it is only thing that he can do.
He renounces his own security interests, ultimately in something beyond himself to help the person.
Yet, the situation is that for all of us here in this room.
I pray and hope that none of us have been throwing bottles and cursing at homeless people or those who are suffering.
But I would all often venture to say that not many of us – and I include myself in this – show the heroic effort of the Good Samaritan.
All of us are somewhere in between. All of us are also dealing with our own insecurity.
And all of us are also dealing with gazing upon things that make us uncomfortable.
But rather than try to puff ourselves up or try to put ourselves on a limb, we just pretend to do nothing or pretend that what’s happening isn’t really as bad, justify walking away. And many times for good reasons. Because we know that people who are suffering, they may be following us. They may be professional homeless. They may be just trying to get money to buy drugs. You name it. We have all the justifications in the world as to why we’re not going to get involved.
Yet, the great danger in hearing this teaching of Jesus is that we may fall into our typical Western ways of looking at things. And what I mean by that is that we think that we have to rise to the occasion to do something to make things right.
And when we can’t do that, we justify why we’re not going to do that.
The Western mindset has God way out there up in heaven.
And we think that if we just say some prayers and if we just muster up enough strength and energy to do good and virtuous things, God will be happy with us. He will reward us with blessings.
And hopefully, at the end of the day, we’ll end up in heaven.
Yet, perhaps the deeper way that God is trying to reveal to us is teaching through this parable that Jesus is trying to reveal to.
This parable is not about trying to do heroic deeds or even to live virtuous living.
There’s more preliminary work that needs to be done before we can make a decision as to how am I supposed to be helping people in need.
The preliminary work is simply given to us in both the first reading from the Old Testament and the second reading from Saint Paul.
The reminder that where God resides is not simply in heaven.
God resides right here. Right within us.
And it’s that God within us that enables us to do impossible feats. Things that have nothing to do with our own natural capacities.
Our skill sets, our talents. The Good Samaritan was good because he allowed the guard within him to come out.
Not because he just showed a really, really heroic way of doing something.
Yet when we don’t really believe that God is here.
We’re going to find ourselves incapable of doing not just heroic things, but anything good.
And this is why when we hear in the first reading, it says that the law of the Lord is something very near to you.
Already in your mouth and in your hearts, you only have to carry it out.
And when St Paul’s is in a far more profound way, all things are were created through him.
And for him, everything that exists only exists because Jesus Himself is already present there.
God isn’t far away. God is right here.
So how do we unleash the reality of God within us?
I spoke about it briefly last Sunday. But I’m going to speak about it again in this context.
If we truly desire to be good Samaritans, we have to spend time wasting prayer time with God.
We have to connect to the God within us.
We have to, in short, find time to be quiet.
Find time to meditate. And what does that look like?
It’s devoting 2 minutes, 3 minutes, 5 minutes, 20 minutes of your day. Just sitting quietly, back straight.
Connecting with your breath and knowing that that breath is the presence of God in you.
No one here makes the decision to breathe.
We can all be thinking about how we can be better people and we can write down a game plan of how to be nicer to people or what I’m going to do throughout the week or how what I’m going to do the next time I see the homeless person asking for money right by the by the train station, we can be thinking about all those things. We can have our game planned.
And in a certain sense, those are things that we are choosing to do.
But the one thing we do not choose to do is to breathe. It is the most fundamental thing.
And I believe, especially as Catholics who are Westerners, we completely gloss over this.
And we immediately are thinking about what we need to do to make the world better, when we only
have to be faithful to the God within us and allow him to do miraculous things through us.
What’s that going to look like? I don’t know. You think the Good Samaritan knew what he was going to do when he saw this guy on the side of the road?
No, he didn’t know. He acted because he allowed what was within to be released.
But that can only be done if it’s cultivated. To waste time with God is the sure means of becoming the Good Samaritan.
Doesn’t happen through activity. It happens by allowing God to act himself within.
So perhaps this week, perhaps today, can we find 2 minutes? Just simply be present to ourselves.
Simply just feel our heartbeat to listen to our breath.
And if we could be able to do it today, can we then make a decision to do it tomorrow?
The most beautiful thing is that you can do it anywhere at any time because you’re breathing all the time.
Find the time to waste with God’s loving presence within you.
That will make you a Good Samaritan. And more importantly, it would make you the very person you’re meant to be.
God bless you.