good neighbors are merciful
" 'Which of these three, in your opinion, was neighbor to the man who fell in with the robbers?' The answer came, 'The one who treated him with mercy.' " —Luke 10:36-37, our transl.
A lawyer of the Mosaic law questioned Jesus: "Teacher, what must I do to inherit everlasting life?" (Lk 10:25) Jesus referred the lawyer to the law (Lk 10:26). Then the lawyer asked Jesus for an interpretation of the law concerning the meaning of the word "neighbor" (Lk 10:29).
Jesus did not interpret the law by citing other laws, as would have been customary. Rather, He interpreted the law by telling a parable. The priest and the Levite in the parable were faced with an interpretation of the law. The law stated that no priest "shall make himself unclean for any dead person among his people" (Lv 21:1). This would probably also apply to the Levites because they served in the Temple. Since the person attacked by robbers in the parable was "half-dead" (Lk 10:30), may have looked dead, or may have been close to death, the priest and the Levite had to decide if the law of having mercy on the afflicted (see Lv 19:16) took precedence over the law of ritual cleanness. They decided that ritual cleanness took precedence. Jesus said they were wrong. As much as God desires sacrifice and the ritual cleanness that must accompany sacrifice, He desires mercy even more (Mt 12:7) — mercy for all people. This means everyone is our neighbor.
We deal with the same issue today as we struggle to put mercy ahead of judgment (Jas 2:13), especially concerning capital punishment and war. If we don't have mercy toward everyone, even enemies such as the Samaritans, then is everyone our neighbor? "Blessed are the merciful" (Mt 5:7, our transl.).
Prayer: Father, may I make no exceptions to the commandment: "Love your neighbor as yourself" (Mt 22:39).
Promise: "If I were trying to win man's approval, I would surely not be serving Christ!" —Gal 1:10
Praise: Mike has fasted weekly for years to end abortion.
Rescript: †Most Reverend Joseph R. Binzer, Auxiliary Bishop, Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, April 24, 2014
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