O foolish people, and without understanding; which have eyes, and see
not; which have ears, and hear not; fear ye not me? Will ye not
Tremble at my presence?
(Jeremiah v. 20-22)
There is a truth about life nowadays that seems to escape most people. This is a truth about themselves. They lack all self-respect. Of course, this is because we have abandoned Christian morality. Proud and arrogant man rejects the call of the highest moral ideal as the law of his life. Proud and arrogant man no longer measures the worth of his life by it. This is because we do not fear God. Self-respect comes to men and women who know themselves, their limitations, and the contours and boundaries of human existence. Self-respect is a gift bestowed on those whose meekness knows that they must lose their lives to find them. Contemporary man fears earthly death. Today, Christ will perform a miracle that brings a young man back from earthly death so that we might awaken from spiritual death. We cannot be roused from the slumber of spiritual death for Christ to enliven and ennoble the finer elements of our self-respecting characters until we face our mortality.
Of course, the problem of mortality is as old as creation. Both the ancient Jews and Greeks were consumed with the good of the soul and its frustration from sin and death. By the time Christ came down from Heaven, the world was in a strangle knot of tension, confusion, and exasperation. Both the Jew and the Greek had enough self-respect to know human nature’s limitations in order to discover God and then struggle to overcome sin and death with His Wisdom. Mortality gnawed at man’s soul as he longed for union with his Maker. For the self-respecting Jews, there was hope in the prophesied promise of deliverance through Messiah. For the self-respecting Greeks, there was divine Wisdom and hope of imagined union with it after death.
Socrates taught that the unexamined life is not worth living. (Apol. 38a) Socrates understood his own mortality and had enough self-respect to search for the truth of it throughout his life. He understood that his soul indwelled a body and often acted against it without knowledge. Our souls in bodies are mostly ignorant of the truth that should move them to find happiness through knowledge. Only then can the soul move above the body to discover the reason for, the cause of, and the Good of human existence. Socrates knew that man’s perfection does not consist in the pursuit of the body’s changing, fickle, uncertain, and unreliable passions. Rather, Socrates believed that man’s perfection consists in the soul’s use of the body for communion with the Good or God. Socrates had enough self-respect to pursue the Good beyond himself, knowing that he knew nothing and, thus, intent upon finding what he did not have. Long before he began his teaching career, knowing the limitations of his own mortality, with self-respect, he began to sacrifice himself for moral ideals above and beyond his selfish and sinful nature. His bravery in the Peloponnesian War from 431-434 B.C., when he fought to defend Athens’ integrity, was a testimony to how the common good moved him. That Socrates believed in deeper transcendent truth can also be seen in his pursuit of the domestic good of his marriage. Xanthippi, Socrates’ wife, was famous in Athens for her disagreeable and nagging ways. In Xenephon’s Symposium, Antisthenes asks Socrates how he can endure his wife. Socrates says having a wife is like choosing a horse. Choose one who is high-mettled, fiery, hard to tame. Once you have tamed her, you have conquered nature. (Xen. Symp. ii. 10) Whatever struggles mortality brings, be they political or domestic, for Socrates, self-respecting man was made to tame his mortality and conquer his lesser passions for the sake of discovering the Moral Ideal, which promises to ennoble and purify his soul. The Good that man is made to know is the cause of all life, the source of all goods – the reasons for which things were made and the source of his true happiness and joy.
Socrates’ philosophical method, like Jeremiah’s prophetic call, was on the way back to God. What both exhort us to pursue is the kind of thinking that tames mortality and sacrifices the lesser goods and gods of this earthly life for the discovery of God’s Goodness. With self-respect, this thinking begins in inquisitive wonder rather than in making. Socrates began his quest by saying I know that I know nothing. (Apol. 21d) Jeremiah realized his impotence before the all-living God. Do you not fear me? Do you not tremble before me? I placed the sand as the bound for the sea, a perpetual barrier which it cannot pass; though the waves toss, they cannot prevail, though they roar, they cannot pass over it. (Jer. v. 22) Both men had enough self-respect for the fear of the Lord and awesome wonder before God’s Thinking Goodness which they did not yet possess but desired. The self-respecting man does not yet know God’s Goodness, the Moral Ideal, for which he was made. Creation is made, moved, and defined not by us but by God’s Thinking Goodness, on which every creature depends for being and wellbeing. The whole of the universe is God’s thinking of it, and we are made to discover it! We neither create nor perpetuate our own thinking. We use our souls without any thought of where our thinking comes from or to whom it is made to be returned. God patiently awaits our discovery of His Goodness.
Socrates and Jeremiah believed that God is calling us forth to find Him. He intends that we come to our senses and gain enough self-respect to acknowledge humbly that we know nothing. That we have souls should be evident in the very fact that we are thinking. That our souls persist beyond death can be seen in this morning’s Gospel. The young son of a widowed mother was dead in body. His decomposing corpse was carried from the walls of Nain to its burial outside the city’s gates. His soul lives on. Christ addresses the living soul that no longer inhabits the body. Christ intends that his body should be brought back to life in order to house his soul for its extended spiritual journey. Jesus wants us to see that mortality has no meaning or definition without God or the soul. If man were merely a soul or a body, Christ would not have bothered to reconcile the two. But Christ shows us today that He intends to give life to the whole person, the embodied soul, forever.
I know that I know nothing. Christ addresses the dead man’s soul, the Widow of Nain’s soul, and our souls. This is a portent of what every soul will do on Judgment Day when, with self-respect, it gives an account of the life it has lived, soul in body, or spirited mortality. The real evidence for God’s power and promise is found in the dead boy’s soul, who knows Christ and obeys His call.
This is the kind of soul that Jesus finds in the Widow of Nain. That the widow woman bereft of her only son is more than merely a body or a soul is clear. The loss of her son’s mortality pierces through her body to her soul. Her soul is so present to her that her body translates the cessation of her son’s life into anguish and sadness. The pain and heartache of her only son’s death consume her soul. She is not running away from mortality, but she has enough self-respect to honor the dead and mourn her loss. She is precisely where Jesus wants to find all of us. What Socrates felt as his brothers in combat fell by his side in the Peloponnesian War and what Jeremiah felt as Jewish Brethren died at the hands of the Babylonians, the Widow of Nain expressed. Because of her self-respect and spiritual sensitivity for human mortality, she is ripe for Christ’s visitation. She has no words or pleas for Jesus. She weeps silently because words cannot conquer the cruelty of mortality when she can do nothing. She is Rachel, weeping for her children who are no more…. (Jer. xxxi. 15) She is Jesus’ own Mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary, who will mourn at His Cross. She is Mother Church, who weeps for her wayward children until they are found by Christ. Her mourning is sincere because she respectfullyknows herself. She will fulfill the beatitude. Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted. (St. Matthew v. 4)
The Widow of Nain’s soul is open to the Lord’s command Weep not. (Ibid, 13) She obeys, for she knows her mortality with self-respect and knows her Lord. Her soul is wholly open to the Lord’s Word. Jesus came and touched the bier: and they that bare the dead man stood still. (Ibid, 14) Her soul is alive with much people who accompanied her and her son. She was self-respecting enough to face mortality without shame. God’s compassion in Christ will bring life out of death and hope out of despair. And he that was dead sat up and began to speak. (Ibid, 15) We do not know what he said. That he spake is sufficient evidence that his soul inhabits a body quickened by Christ once again. All are filled with awesome wonder. New life in the dead man now brings his mother and the crowd out of mortality’s end into self-respecting new spiritual life.
Self-respect calls us to know ourselves, and the limitations of human mortality.
Self-respect implies the free exercise of our spiritual faculties in the sphere of the supernatural and a living communion with Him, Who is supremely the Holy Spirit. We may have to acknowledge that our powers in all these elements of the self are small, but we shall be saved from self-contempt if we recognize that, however weak they may be, we have the capacity of infinite development so long as we are loyal to the highest we perceive. (The Church Year in the Sunday Times, p. 188)
With the Apostle Paul, we must come
to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge. (Eph. iii. 16-19)
With self-respect for our mortality, we must pray that our embodied souls will find new life in Jesus Christ. With the Widow of Nain, we must mourn until we find it. Only Socrates’ learned ignorance, I know that I know nothing, and Jeremiah’s fear of the Lord can make us ripe for the visitation of God’s love in Jesus Christ with encouragement for that self-respect which, founded on reverence towards God, knows that our highest dignity is to serve Him with all our powers. (idem, p. 189)
The Good which we have forsaken must come to us from without
before we can rediscover it within. Thus, the Good comes to us through
the humanity of Jesus Christ, that then leads us to the Eternal Word,
through which, in turn, we are reconciled to the Father. The Good that
we discover is the original Word of God, by which alone we were once obedient to God
and can be made obedient again.
William Law: The Spirit of Love, Address XVIII
The Gospel of Jesus Christ is all about how the Good must come to us from without before we can discover it within. Trinity Tide is all about virtue in the soul as it recovers its lost Good. If we are to grow in virtue, we must rediscover the Good in the Sacred Humanity of Jesus Christ. In Him, we must rediscover that state that Adam once had but had lost by reason of his pride. Today Jesus says Ye cannot serve God and Mammon (St. Matthew vi. 25) But we are fallen and, thus, constantly torn between the two. Jesus will teach us to know the difference. Then, He will teach us that to love or will the Good requires inward and spiritual suffering. The real battle comes as the soul struggles to love the one and hate the other (idem, 24) as Jesus Christ welcomes us into His death.
Of course, postmodern man has been conditioned to fear and shrink from love and hate. Such passions might elicit courage and zeal to fight and even die for an ideal or principle. But Christians are called to love and hate. To eschew evil and do good (1 Peter iii. 11) require knowledge of the good and the power to will it. Jesus exhorts us to hate the sin and love the sinner. This means loving both ourselves and others in God. It means that we must hate sin which separates us from God. Jesus means business, and in the end times if we haven’t taken our one shot at salvation seriously enough, we shall be rewarded with the Hell that we have chosen. Irrational cowardice will be no excuse at the Great and Dreadful Day of Judgment.
Coming to love the sinner, again, means ourselves and others in the Good. This will be, of course, be a consequence of knowledge. Goodness must be found first on the outside of ourselvesbefore it can be willed inwardly and spiritually. That we are torn between good and evil in Adam, is clear to any man who knows himself. Anyone who denies this is mad or insane. But even fallen man has always been left with a remnant of God’s Goodness. Fallen man has forever discovered God’s Goodness in his study of nature with the ancient Greeks. Fallen man has forever discovered God’s Goodness through revelation to the ancient Jews. When Christ comes into the world, externally and visibly, as Man, with body, soul, and spirit, He invites all men to partake of the reconciliation between Man and God’s Goodness realized and perfected in Himself.
St. Thomas Aquinas says that God rules Man by three rights. First, by the right of creation. For He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture. (Ps. xcv. 7) Second, by the right of purchase. Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. (1 Peter i. 18.19) Third, by right of the support of life. Who giveth food to all flesh, for His mercy endureth forever. (T.A. Trinity XV Gospel Commentary) By the right of creation, we know that we owe our creation, preservation, and all the blessings of this life to God. By the right of purchase, we know that God in Jesus Christ has purchased us and paid the ransom for our sin. By the right of support of life, we know that God gives us that well-being that will ensure our salvation by way of the indwelling of Our Lord the Holy Ghost. Knowing that we come from God the Father, are made right through God the Son, and are sanctified by God the Holy Ghost are three essential forms of knowledge presented to faith, hope, and love. Reason teaches us to know our origin and destiny. We come from God and are made to return to God. Nothing – neither sin nor death, needs stand in the way of God’s rational purpose and loving desire to save and reconcile us with Himself.
But our failure to hate sin distracts us from willing what we believe and know to be God’s Good.Sin is found in the flesh and our anxiety over it. Today St. Paul writes to the Galatian Church, which is being tempted to indulge the flesh. Jewish Christians are tempting Gentile converts to believe that the precepts of the Jewish Law pertaining to the flesh, like circumcision, are needed for salvation. St. Paul rejects this.
Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more: circumcised the eighth day of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. (Phil. iii. 4-7)
Once he believed that the Law was as close as Man could come to God. Soon he learned that neither the Law of Nature nor the Law of the Jews could enable man to will God’s Goodness. Then he encountered Jesus Christ, and came to know that the Law of the flesh is sin and death. St. Paul began to connect the dots. His faith was rational. The Law condemned man to death and alienation from God the Father. For St. Paul, man’s division from God has been overcome in Jesus Christ. Jewish Christians are demanding circumcision in the Gentiles to glory in their flesh. (Gal. vi. 13) St. Thomas says that ‘they may glory’ for making so many proselytes. (Comm. Gal. vi.) For Jewish Christians, circumcision was fleshly proof of winning converts. St. Paul counters with, But God forbid that I should glory save in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world. (ibid, 14) St. Thomas continues:
Notice that where the worldly philosopher felt shame, the Apostle found his treasure: what the former regarded as foolish became for the Apostle wisdom and glory, as Augustine says. For each person glories in that through which he is considered great…For one who regards himself to be great in nothing but Christ glories in Christ alone. Hence the Apostle says: ‘[I have been crucified with Christ;] I live; but not I. Christ liveth in me.’ (Gal. ii. 20, idem)
Faith, hope, and love are rational. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. (1 Cor. i. 25) God comes to Man, saves him, and reconciles him to Himself. Faith in who Jesus Christ is and what he does make sense. But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. (Gal. iv. 4,5) God intends that Man know and love Him. His plan has unfolded without interruption. God sent His Son into the world, taking on our nature, to conquer the Law of sin and death. For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. (2 Cor. v. 21) Christ consumed all sin in Himself and defeated it. God’s Word submits to His own Law of sin and death rationally for us to win our salvation.
Still, knowing the Good and loving or willing are different. St. Thomas writes For in the Cross is the perfection of all law and the whole art of living well. (ibid, Gal, vi.) Loving God in Jesus Christ by the Spirit, we enter His victory over sin and death as we love the sinner – in ourselves and hate the sin. To love is to will the good, ‘knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.’ (Rom. vi. 6) Christ predicts our anxiety.
Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: and yet I say unto you, that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith. Therefore, take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?... For your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. (Matt. vi. 28-34)
Hating the sin and loving the sinner is embracing God’s Goodness. We must seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness. St. Augustine writes
But the Lord admonishes us that we should remember that when God made us…body and soul, He gave us much more than food and clothing, through care for which he would not have our heart double [over the necessities of life.](Aug. Book II, ‘Sermon on the Mount’)
With St. Paul and St. Thomas, we return to the Cross. ‘For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth anything nor uncircumcision, but a new creature.’ Indeed, he glories mainly in that which helps in joining him to Christ; for this the Apostle desires…to be with Christ. (idem) Undo care and anxiety over the flesh is sin. Hating our sin to embrace God’s Goodness in Jesus Christ from the Spirit to the flesh is virtue. Loving Christ’s death opens us to His promise to make us new creatures in His Resurrection. Heaven’s secret is that, with love, He will feed and clothe us inwardly and spiritually. He invites us to eat His Body and drink His Blood. As secretly as God feeds the birds of the field and clothes the lilies of the field, His love will feed and clothe us if we have faith. Ye cannot serve God and Mammon, (idem) foolishness to worldly men, but to them that love Him, the authority to become the Sons of God. (John 1:12)
We open our mouths wide till God opens his hand, but after, as if
the filling of our mouth were the stopping of our throats, so
we are speechless and heartless.
St. Bernard of Clairvaux
Have you ever found yourself in a form of suffering that bound you together with other people because of a common predicament? Our world is full of communities that meet because of a shared grief that seeks a common cure. You’ve heard about or have even been a part of those grieving groups – cancer survivors’ networks, Veterans organizations, Al-Anon, and Alcoholics Anonymous, and so on. If you haven’t participated in any of them, you know that these communities meet to solve common problems that emerge from some kind of disease, addiction, or trauma. In each group, there is hope for mutual and reciprocal help. In each group, too, there is always the danger of potential breakdown because of collective spiritual ingratitude. Then there might be the danger that one might find spiritual ostracization because he doesn’t fit in and seems rather alien to the copacetic coziness of the group dynamic. Yet, if the group is seriously committed to its desired end and is patient, the outsider might very well reveal some spiritual truth to the community.
In this morning’s Gospel, we find the case of one such alien or Samaritan, who otherwise might not have been welcomed by the group but for the overwhelmingly desperate nature of their common disease. That the man was tolerated reveals how fatal illness and disease break down all division. For the men who clung so acutely together in this morning’s Gospel Lesson shared the disease of leprosy. Leprosy in the ancient world was viewed as a spiritual malady, earning its carriers exile from the City of Man. The physical manifestations were deemed so hideous by healthy men that it they were judged to be a punishment for sins, both by the God of the Jews and the deities of the ancient Gentiles. In any case, the leprous were unwelcome in both communities and so lived on the borders of both as aliens to all. And it is one such group that we encounter this morning. We meet them because Jesus chose not to take the common and safer route for Jews making pilgrimage up to Jerusalem but to go through the dangerous border that the Jewish people shared with their Samaritan neighbors.
And as he entered into a certain village, there met him ten men that were lepers, which stood afar off: and they lifted up their voices, and said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us. (St. Luke xvii 12, 13) The lepers stand on the outskirts of the village, and they cry out for help from one whom they trust will hear their plea. Their bodies are wasting away and decomposing, and yet their souls are alive to the need for love. They have not despaired. The prayer of their hearts is that Jesus will be friend and neighbor to them all. The who is my neighbor? of last week’s Gospel takes on a compelling and urgent nature. These men are in a ditch of a predicament and do not merely need help but want it. Their companionship in misery and suffering moves them to seek out the one neighbor whose mercy can heal their pain. The Lord is nigh unto all them that call upon him, to all that call upon him in truth. (Ps. cxlv. 18) Archbishop Trench reminds us, they do have hope that a healer is at hand, and so in earnest they seek to extort the benefit. (Parables, 262) So they cry, Jesus, Master, have mercy upon us. (St. Luke xvii 13)
And when He saw them, He said unto them, Go show yourselves unto the priests. And it came to pass, that, as they went, they were cleansed. (St. Luke xvii 14) In last week’s Gospel we remember that Jesus likened Himself unto the Good Samaritan and not the Good Jew. Today, this same Samaritan continues His work, but this time without need for bandages, oil, or wine. Physical deterioration has yielded to spiritual desire; to the inner hearts of wounded outcasts, the spoken Word of the Good Samaritan is all that is needed for the healing that will soon follow. Those who are spiritually conscious of their sorry and sinful state always cut to the quick and cry Jesus, Master, have mercy upon us. (Idem) When He says, Go…, they obey and trust in the power of His love. Matthew Henry writes that Those that expect Christ's favours must take them in his way and method. (Comm: St. Luke, xviii) Obedience and trust must become the instinctive response of the supplicant to the all-merciful God. What sinful men must seek is His power to heal and whatever means He deems fit for it.
Here we see that an external and visible disease reveals far more painful inward and spiritual suffering. Because the lepers’ disease is so hideous, they dare not touch him with their infectious bodies. Their inner agony longs to touch His heart with the cry of anguish. He hears their words and responds with the Word. Go shew yourselves unto the priests. (Idem) His all-commanding Word moves into their hearts so that they trust it inwardly as it heals them outwardly. We read that as they went, they were cleansed. (Ibid, 14) Notice that nothing more was needed for this kind of healing. The men were physically healed of their leprosy instantly as they moved on to the priests.
But this is not the end of the matter. This miracle is not only about healing the physical disease of leprosy. What is clear from today’s miracle is that Jesus heals always to inaugurate an inner and spiritual transformation. The Jews alienate the Samaritans because of their ethnicity and race. That the Samaritan would dare to show himself to the [Jewish] priests is uncertain. Though no longer leprous, still his soul felt alienation and separation from all other men, filled with fear and confusion. His motives might have been mixed. Coleridge says no man, either hero or saint, ever acted from an unmixed motive, for let him do what he will rightly; Conscience whispers "it is your duty.” The Samaritan does what he thinks is right and best by his conscience. The Samaritan, alone, is spiritually awakened by his healing and so returns to offer God thanks. Feeling the newly emerging healing of his body, he senses the birth of a spiritual awakening in his heart to the Power of God in Jesus Christ. In the depths of his spirit, he had longed for a friend, and so in this place that he feels the presence of the newfound love in God’s Good Samaritan. Here he finds that love that will touch and transform his life. And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God, and fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan. (St. Luke xvii 15,16)
This outsider, this alien to Israel’s promises, turns back. Unlike the Nine Jews, this man serves the Power of God’s love in the heart of Jesus and not the Law and the Commandments. No doubt the priests in the temple would have judged him alien and undeserving of their blessing in any case. But more importantly, he turns back first to the source and cause of all healing and health. He not only turns back, but he glorifies God; he not only praises God but with all the strength of his body’s newfound health, he runs, and he falls down at the feet of God’s powerful presence in Jesus Christ in Spirit. His body was healed, but now his soul has been set free, and he serves his liberated soul, giving thanks to God in Jesus Christ.
And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine? There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger. (St. Luke xvii 17,18) This Samaritan is a stranger to God and his promises. But it is this stranger who perceives and knows Jesus’ love most truly. This Samaritan alone gives God the Glory. His faith is startling and profound. The others were healed by faith as well. But as George Macdonald reminds us, this man had enough faith left over to bring him back, for his cure had been swallowed up in gratitude. (Miracles of Healing…) Jesus says to him, Arise, go thy way; thy faith hath made thee whole. (St. Luke xvii 19)
This morning we each must ask: Where do I find myself in this morning’s miracle? Are we one with grateful Samaritan? Are we here for worship in community alone to seek healing through Common Prayer and the Sacraments? Or will these outward and visible signs bring inward and spiritual healing to our souls? For that to happen, once we leave this place, we have two options. You have come to God’s priest to receive His blessing. Will we turn back, giving God thanks throughout the week for what we have received through Jesus Christ? Again, with George Macdonald, All communities are for the sake of individual life, for the sake of the love and the truth that is in each heart, and is not cumulative. But all that is precious in the individual heart depends for existence on the relation the individual bears to other individuals. – how can he love? (idem) Jesus gives Himself to the community of ten lepers but one turns back because his faith has moved him to gratitude in love. Jesus gives Himself to us today in His Body and Blood. Will we turn back and offer him thanks for incorporating us into His death on the Cross and His Resurrection? Are we being healed in deed and in truth so that nothing presses us with more urgency than the ongoing need to be grateful for the good work already begun in our souls? St. Paul tells us to walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lusts of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary the one to the other. (Gal. v. 16, 17) The Venerable Bede asks, with the Samaritan, acutely aware of my own unworthiness, humbling myself before God, shall I hear the Divine Word to rise, put my hand to strong things, and go on my way to more perfect things? (P.L. 92, Expos. In Lucam) Today’s Samaritan perfects his flesh with the Spirit of gratitude. Soon he shall bear the fruit of the Spirit…which is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against which there is no law.Let us not be speechless and heartless like the nine other healed lepers. Jesus Christ the Good Samaritan’s has cured us. Let Jesus us allow Jesus to respond to our thanksgiving with:
Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole. (St. Luke xvii 19)
Blessed are the eyes which see the things that ye see: For I tell you,
that many prophets and kings have desired to see those things which ye see and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear and have not heard them.
(St. Luke 10. 23, 24)
Before Jesus proclaims the blessing in Gospel lesson, He offered thanksgiving to His Father for beginning to generate a new kind of seeing and hearing in the eyes and ears of His Apostles, which were opened, like new-born babes, into the new world of His mission and meaning. Yet no sooner had Jesus praised His Father for bringing new vision and meaning to His friends than one man, a lawyer, stood up to test his religious view against what he saw as an exhortation to the impossible. For those with eyes to see and ears to hear, Jesus will correct the lawyer’s senses with His own. The lawyer may turn out to be both blind and deaf, but Jesus will open the eyes and ears of others to the limitless love that He brings into the world.
Behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted [Jesus], saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? (St. Luke 10. 25) Archbishop Trench reminds us from the get-go that the lawyer is not tempting Jesus with pride or envy; he merely meant to test and try Jesus’ teaching. He knows that God ‘tempts’ man, putting him to wholesome proof, revealing to him the secrets of his heart, to which he might have remained a stranger. (Trench, Parables) So, Jesus responds, What is written in the Law? How readest thou? (St. Luke 10. 26) The lawyer replies, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul, with all thy strength, and with all thy mind, and thy neighbour as thyself. (Ibid, 27) Jesus answers, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live. (Ibid, 28) Jesus implies, You know the Law. If you can obey it, you shall find eternal life. That the lawyer cannot fulfill the Law becomes clear because he wants to put a limit on his love. (Trench, idem) The lawyer, willing to justify himself (–or prove himself blameless) said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbour? (St. Luke 10. 29) The lawyer, wanting a healthy boundary to his love, means whom shall I love and whom should I refrain from loving? Archbishop Trench writes that the essence of Love has no limit except its own ability to proceed further. (idem) This man wants to know who my neighbour is to guard against nolimit and a virtue that might extend into infinity. His mistake is that he is looking at the recipient of his love and not at himself. His Love for others is limited! St. Cyril suggests that in asking, ‘Who is my neighbor’, he reveals to us that he is empty of love for his neighbor since he does not consider anyoneas his neighbor; and consequently, he is also empty of the Love of God. (C.A. Pent. xii)
Jesus answers him with a parable. A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. (St. Luke 10. 30) Here, Jesus tells the story of Man’s Fall, and how God, in Jesus, will respond to it. Because of sin, fallen man has freely willed to travel down from the Love of God’s Jerusalem into the sinful love of earthly Jericho. As a result, he has fallen in with the devil and his angels, who have stripped him of his original righteousness and wounded him with the sting of death, or sin. (1 Cor. xv. 56) Fallen man is wounded and abandoned, left half dead in relation to God. Throughout the course of man’s fallen history, great men, educated in the Law –like today’s lawyer, have forever gone up to Jerusalem to receive the discipline and correction of the Law and the Prophets but have also always come down and fallen into the ditch.
The parable continues. By chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. And likewise, a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side. (St. Luke 10. 31, 32) Origen reminds us that the Priest and the Levite represent the law and the prophets in all ages, (Origen, “What shall I do for Eternal Life?”)who might very well have had the wisdom to describe man’s indenture to the Law of Sin, even with hope in the prophesied promises but cannot offer Grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews iv. 16) This is because they cannot identify with Sinful Man, in themselves, fallen from God and wounded by sin. They do not see that in the ditch is the condition of another self in desperate need of God’s Grace. They have forgotten the weightier matters of the Law, judgment, mercy, and faith, (Trench, idem) and, thus, have placed a limit on their Love, justifying [themselves].
Jesus continues. But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him, and went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. (St. Luke 10. 33, 34) Man who knows that he has fallen from Divine Grace in earthly life lies helpless in the ditch. Along comes a Samaritan- literally an alien and exile to the Law and Prophets of Israel. Yet, Samaritan means one who observes the Law, and this Good Samaritan will turn out to be the only one who can fulfill the Law. For this Samaritan is one who is so full of compassion and mercy that he alone can impart the Love that he receives from God to others. He is the love of God and the love of neighbor in the flesh. He alone can heal Fallen Man and remedy his spiritual alienation from God. As Origen reminds us, Providence was keeping the half-dead man for One who was stronger than the Law and the Prophets. (Idem) Thou art a Samaritan and hast a devil, the Priest and Levite exclaim to Jesus. Nevertheless, the Samaritan, which also means guardian, comes down with a medicine bag full of spiritual remedies. He carries with him bandages, oil, and wine, for He expects to find all self-consciously half dead fallen men, who know that this limitless love alone can break the sway of sin over their lives. This Samaritan sets fallen man upon his own beast –his back, and because loving his neighbor becomes the labor of his lifetime, he carries him into spiritual health that knows no limit.
The Good Samaritan is, of course, Jesus Christ, who alone bears and carries the weight of all self-consciously half-dead sinners on to their healing redemption. He carries man to an inn and cares for him. The inn symbolizes that hospital for sinners, the Church, who are passing through this vale of tears to God’s Kingdom. The Church’s innkeepers will be the Apostles and then their successors. Jesus, the Good Samaritan, spends a night in the inn, on His Cross, and then throughout His Resurrection, as He cares for fallen man and then teaches the innkeepers how to continue the work that His love has limitlessly begun. And on the morrow, when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee. (St. Luke 10. 35) The Good Samaritan gives two pence to the innkeepers, the price He pays for the salvation of their souls with His Body and Blood. The Church receives these gifts as the means of ongoing spiritual convalescence in the Holy Sacrament. He has paid the price of their salvation with His Body and Blood, and because of what Jesus Christ, the Good Samaritan, has done, the salvation journey has limitless Love to draw upon. When the Good Samaritan returns, He will repay to the spiritual caregiver, the Church, what He owes them –the salvation He has gifted to them as the Love that keeps on giving.
At the conclusion of the parable, Jesus asks the lawyer and us, Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighour unto him that fell among the thieves? (ibid, 36) The lawyer answers, He that showed mercy on him. (Ibid, 37) Jesus said, Go and do thou likewise. (Ibid, 38)
Thus, we must ponder the significance of the parable for our own lives. Who is my neighbor, we ask with the lawyer? We learn that our neighbor is not, first and foremost, the man left half-dead in the ditch, but the Good Samaritan, or Jesus Christ Himself. Our neighbor, then, is not, first, the man upon whom we are called to show mercy. Rather, our neighbor is the One whose Love for us knows no limit. For, truly, we are the man in the ditch in need of redemption and salvation. Until we realize that Christ Jesus is the Good Samaritan who comes to bind up our wounds, heal our bodies and souls, take us into the inn of the Church, to convalesce by the Grace of God through the power of His Holy Spirit, we shall never sufficiently receive with thanksgiving that Saving Love which is born to be shared. The Priests and Levites are not alone in passing by the real problem. The Scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe. (Gal. iii. 22)Whenever we forget that this inn is a hospital, and that we are here because we are sick and need of the Good Samaritan’s limitless loving cure, we perish. Receiving the limitless Love that Jesus Christ, God’s Good Samaritan, brings to our fallen condition, we shall be sore amazed as His eternal desire and omnipotent might save us through the Holy Spirit. We shall not only see, hear, and obey God’s Love for ourselves, but we shall also love our neighbors as ourselves because God’s Love in our hearts touches all others, like the Sun, which does not inquire on which it shall shine. (Trench, idem) We shall receive from God, of whose only gift it cometh that [His] faithful people do unto [Him] true and laudable service. (Collect Trinity XIII) Such service loves God wholly and our neighbors as ourselves. With Archbishop Trench, let us see that Love is a debt we are forever paying and are contented to owe (idem) to God and all men, through Jesus Christ, by the Holy Ghost. Let us see how Christ loves us with no limit as we hear His command to minister to Him in all others. (idem)
St. Michael and All Angels Sermons: