Monday, July 15, 2013

On the Road to Jericho, "Every Living Being Is Our Neighbor"

Yesterday, as I continued my travels through Alabama, I attended Mass at St. Peter the Apostle Church in Hoover with dear friends who once were fellow parishioners in New Jersey.  As good homilists do,  Rev. Joy Nellissery told a familiar Gospel story so that I thought about it in a new way.

We all know the parable of the Good Samaritan, the man who stopped to help a stranger on the road to Jericho. I didn't realize this dangerous 17-mile steep and winding road was known as the "Way of Blood," a remote road well known to robbers. The Samaritan, an enemy to Jews, stopped to help an injured, half-dead man, after  both a priest and a Levite pass him by. How powerful and timely  Father Joy's words are.
I was so inspired by his homily I started taking notes on an envelope in my purse. He started out by explaining that many religions before Christianity, including Buddhism and Confucianism, include the Golden Rule, that is, to treat your neighbor as you would like to be treated.

What is it about Christ's message that makes it so startlingly different?

The definition of neighborhood.

"If God is father, then every living being is our neighbor. There is no them. There is no us versus them. We are all us.

We are one large neighborhood. Jesus is insisting this is how we live. Help a person, even if he brought trouble on himself. Our help must be as wide as God's love is. Our help must be practical. Compassion, to be real, must be issued in deeds.

Christ's message is clear: We must remove the boundaries we built in our neighborhoods. This is what saints do."