Homily for the 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C (6)

Homily for the 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C (6)

Homily for the 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C
Theme: Who is really my neighbour
By: Fr. Mike Olumba

Homily for Sunday July 14 2019
(Gospel, Luke 10: 25-37)

This Sunday we read the well known and well loved story of the Good Samaritan, the story about the neighbour, neighbourliness and being a neighbour. 

To the man who asked the question “what must I do to win eternal life?”, Jesus answered by citing the Bible. He cited Deuteronomy 6, 5 which speaks of the Shema Israel on love of God and Leviticus 19, 18; which speaks of love of neighbour. But still to pin him down, the Jewish teacher went further. “But who is my neighbour?” The questioner was a teacher in Israel. He knew that he was asking this second part to trap Jesus. 

To the second question meant to test Jesus and perhaps also clear one’s doubts by asking this young teacher who seems to have answers almost to every question, the teacher of the law went further. Why not ask him one of the intractable questions among the Jews: “Who then is my neighbour?” If he gives a good answer, then this is fine. If he fails, then his pretension to knowledge of God and scriptures will be clear. In any case the teacher asking the question will have not much to lose. With good or bad intention, often Jesus answers at least for the sake of others around. For Jesus, there was here the need for a story. 

The dilemma was that in the Old Testament, the love for neighbour is also written and taught as shown above. But with time and circumstances, the question and the dilemma arose: Who is really my neighbour? Who merits my kind consideration and help? Probably the experiences had with close neighbouring nations, and other far flanged nations, the good and the bad experiences; all these influenced this question and the answers sought or given to it. Is my neighbour just any other human person? Or is it only Jews?

Some teachers even thought (think) and taught (teach) that if a Jew travelling on the road sees a women from the pagan nations in the process of giving birth, that helping such a woman is helping the perpetuation of the pagan race. And in fact, for such teachers, ignoring such a woman in labour would not be counted as sin. Helping her would rather be counted as a sin. Some other teachers who had a larger more universal view of the God of Israel said that they were not in support of such interpretation. Some saw the hospitality shown to others as extending to them God’s salvation which can lead to their conversion. Others also saw that the Jews has sometimes also benefited from strangers’ goodwill or even from pagan nations. Even some kings that saved them in the past were pagan kings. Think of King Cyrus who even it was said that he acted under Gods instruction (Isaiah 45: 1-4; 41:2-25; 42:6; 44: 28; Chronicles 36: 22-23). 

Of the two first people who saw the man who was robbed and left for dead, they were a priest and a Levite, cultic persons and functionaries of the temple. Of course they have to be certain of not soiling their purity on their way to the temple or away from the temple. Purity counts! 

To the question, asked by Jesus; “Which of these three do you think was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of robbers? Who among the three treated him as a neighbour?”, the Jewish teacher answered; “The one who showed him kindness”

It would have been easier to say simply “the Samaritan”, but unwillingly the Jewish teacher answered: “The one who had mercy/kindness on him”.

The problem is how can the Jew say that it was the Samaritan that showed kindness and hospitality to the victim of armed robbers attack thus fulfilling the Law? That means saying that it was the “evil Samaritan” that lived out here the spirit of the Law. Onye kpolu mmadu asi adighi etu ya afa ozo ya! It is like a story told of a good deed done to your brother. And who was the kind doer? Your “enemy”, that you criticise everyday as evil. 

Jesus answered; whether you define his true identity or not, whether you know his name or not, whether you define him properly or not, “Go and do likewise. Go and act like him”. Go and act like the Samaritan. 

To the man who asked him, „who is my neighbour?”, Jesus did not point essentially to the neighbour. He rather used a story in which the one acting is the one who eventually proved himself to be a good neighbour to those in need. He asked him thus to go and be a neighbour to those in need. He asked him to be attentive especially to find those who cannot even dare to ask for your help. It is you that ought to find them and help them. Be a neighbour to him/her who needs your help, expressed or not. 

In the story told by Jesus, the man that fell among the robber lost everything including the consciousness at least as seen in the story. He did nothing. He could do nothing for himself. Everything was done for him. He was simply dependent on others goodwill. 

Sometimes, nsogbu uwa na akudaru anyi ala nke na anyi enweghi ike iweli olu rio enyemaka, ma o bu welie anya, choo enyemaka; ma o bu welie aka elu fee aka maka enyemaka. A si onye kwuo mkpa ya, umunna enyere ya aka, ma o bu buore ya meeting. But sometimes, you are knocked down and out that even to ask for help becomes difficult if not simply impossible. How can you even explain to your brother that you do not even have anything to eat in the house? How do you explain that you cannot take your child or wife to the hospital for lack of money? How can you overcome the shame? How do you explain that all that you were saying yesterday is just ima njakiri, and that in actual fact, you have not up to 20 naira with you in the house or in the bank? 

Once, a man was involved in a motor accident. He was travelling as a passenger in a bus with others. The bus skipped the road and jumped into the bush and was badly damaged. Many people died. Those coming behind them saw the accident. They stopped and removed the dead, took others away to the hospital. The badly damaged bus remained there. Three days later, another passerby, just by/for curiosity sake, stopped to see this bus lying on its side around ten meters from the road. He saw the signs that indicate that there was a fatal accident. While going around the bus, he saw something like a human foot shooting out under the bus but covered by grasses. He looked closely and saw that it was really a human foot, and that there was someone beneath the bus. He touched the foot, and it was still warm meaning that it was alive. He ran to the road, waved to stop some other people. They came and helped him upturn the bus, and brought out a man who was laying their unconscious since three days. That was how they saved the man in extremis and took him to the hospital. He recovered consciousness later. He was one of those knocked down and out by the difficulties, accidents, hazards and vicissitudes of this life that someone needed to find them and extend helping hand to them since left on their own, like the victim in today’s story, they cannot even seek for or ask for help. So it was with the victim of robbers. 

Go today; seek out one or two people around you that may need your help in whatever form that is good and within your means to attend to. Be a neighbour to them. Extend a helping hand to them. Is it food to eat? Cooked or better even, uncooked? Money to buy some rice or some food? Money to help with the children’s need? Cancelling litigation when possible? Ibelata ugali, okwu na uka when possible? 

To the question, asked by Jesus; “Which of these three do you think was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of robbers? Who among the three treated him as a neighbour?”, the Jewish teacher answered; “The one who showed him kindness”

Jesus tells you today; “Go and do likewise. Go and act like him. Go and act like the Samaritan. Go and be a neighbour to those in need of your help”-Amen!
Mike Olumba

*ADDENDUM:*
*But who are the Samaritans? *
One account is that:
In the biblical times, some nations in order to reduce the chances of general revolt of conquered people, normally uprooted and deported such conquered people to other lands and settled others in such evacuated lands. That happened when the Jews were conquered and deported into the Babylonia Exile where they stayed for fifty years. At their return, they saw that those that were left behind later married and intermingled with the pagan foreigners settled also by the conquerors. The returnees saw this as a defilement of pure Jewish blood. The Jewish/Samaritan problem started. 

When the returnees were rebuilding the temple, the “others” contributed and brought money for the project. The returnees refused their “dirty” money. The issue went to the then reigning Persian king. He judged that “if the returnees want to stay apart from those who stayed back in Israel, then let it be so”. Thus the returnees will henceforth keep Jerusalem as their capital city, while the others will keep Samaria as their capital city”. Those who kept Samaria as their capital city later became Samaritans, while the Jews of pure blood kept Jerusalem as their capital city. Of course this division followed an older history of accusations and counter accusations of worship of false gods in Samarian, worsened by the arrival of those deported from other pagan nations and settled in Israel, in areas near Samaria. 

Now with the story and the discussion between Jesus and the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well, the blocking of the road to Jesus and his disciples in a Samaritan village by the villagers, and other stories of Jewish/Samaritan conflicts in the gospels, one places issues in their proper place and order. 

It is thus from among these people presumed to be evil by the Jews, presumed to not to know God; it is from among them that Jesus picked a character in his story to show kindness and piety contrary to that shown by the Jewish priest and Levite who are the teachers of the Law and cultic functionaries in the temple but who failed to live out the Law of God. To the Jews, the Samaritan cannot be good, pious, kind or hospitable. But in the story, Jesus thought and taught otherwise. 

To the question, asked by Jesus; “Which of these three do you think was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of robbers? Who among the three treated him as a neighbour?”, the Jewish teacher answered; “The one who showed him kindness”

Perhaps, it is another way of saying: “When people think of the worst of you, go and be rather your best”. 

Jesus tells you today; “Go and do likewise. Go and act like him. Go and act like the Samaritan. Go and be a neighbour to those in need of your help”-Amen!
Mike Olumba

_Where do you place the addendum? I do not know actually. Think of where it suits best with the best effect if it does not make too long your breaking of the word._

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