THE DANGER OF BEING RELIGIOUS
(Twenty-Fifth Sunday after Pentecost)
The Parable of the Good Samaritan in today's Gospel (Luke 10:25-37) may be the most widely known of Jesus' parables. The word, Samaritan, has entered the vocabularies of many world languages as a synonym of a person who does a good deed for someone they don't know, whom they find to be in need.
The Parable presents a challenge for Jesus' followers to act as it teaches: in a compassionate, caring, unmercenary way to everyone who is in need. We all know that this is not always the case. There are even examples of people designated as Christians who use violence in fighting each other, inflicting upon each other the sort of wounds that the bandits inflicted on the victim who was helped by the Samaritan.
Note that the Lord Himself said that there would be people who would say "Lord, Lord", and not do as He taught - and they would be rejected by Him (Matthew 7:21). Conversely, there are people who are not Christians, who nonetheless act in the way described in this beautiful teaching which has challenged and inspired so many throughout the ages. These are the true Good Samaritans.
Actually, when Jesus first spoke this parable, many of His listeners may have been quite scandalized. It was highly unusual for Jews to speak well of Samaritans. These peoples had inherited prejudices against each other for reasons of ethnic origin and religion (the religion of the Samaritans was very similar to that of the Jews, but it differed in a number of ways and this was an ongoing source of irritation for both sides). Thus, in giving us the Parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus was not only teaching charitable behaviour - he was also challenging people to put aside their prejudices and pre-conceptions and see everyone in need as their neighbour. Everyone who does what they can to help people in need are true neighbours to those people, no matter what their origins or convictions may be.
This Parable challenges everyone - not only Christians or religous peole. It offers hope for a world where everyone can truly be neighbours to each other. Can we just imagine what a wonderful world that would be? What security, what peace, what beauty, what kindness, what joy we would find there! A world like that would truly be able to deal with the problems of finding food, shelter, medicine and support for all its people.
This is the kind of world that God saw when He began His creation. This is the vision that Jesus renews for the world. Above all, this is the kind of world that He challenges us, His followers who are called Orthodox Christians, to build by our prayers, our words and our deeds.
V. Rev. Ihor George Kutash