Saint for the day: Denis & Companions (Died: 258?)
Jonah 1:1 – 2:1-2, 11 – Jonah 2:3-5, 8 – Luke 10:25-37
“What I say to you in the darkness speak in the light, says the Lord; what you heard whispered proclaim on the housetops. (Matthew 10:17)Today, the Church gives us two very dramatic stories that most of us are familiar with: the story of Jonah trying to run away from God; and the story of the “Good Samaritan.” The story of Jonah is a salvation/redemption story filled with vivid images that would have been familiar to most folks in the times of Jesus. Most of those people had a great fear of the sea which often caught them unawares with sudden storms. They also presumed that the dark, depths were the home of Leviathan, the great sea monster. But in the story, it’s the monster fish that actually turns out to be a “savior” for Jonah, who, after having a kind of “baptism in water” spends three days in the belly of the fish – a kind of tomb – and then is dropped on the shore of the very place he was trying to avoid! The “Good Samaritan Story” has to be filtered a little since our current era has jumped ahead some and made the “Samaritan” a kind of “good-guy/savior” which wouldn’t have been any where near the way the Scribes and Pharisees (and most lawful Jews) thought. But Jesus turns this around when the scholar asks what he must do to gain eternal life and Jesus asks him what he reads in the Bible. And if there is one scripture passage that every law-abiding Jew knows, it’s the Shema, Israel: “you shall love the Lord … and your neighbor as yourself.” And when asked by the scholar in today’s Gospel, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus gives the familiar parable of the “Good Samaritan.” In this story we can all answer – as the scholar did – correctly: “The one who showed mercy” & leave it there – while dismissing the other two characters – the priest and the Levite as having failed the test. But the point of this story is not about who is right or who is wrong but, rather, about which one goes beyond the mere “letter of the law.”
The main point of today’s Holy Gospel should cause us to break through the status quo and go the extra mile out of genuine love, compassion and mercy. Next time you toss the wad of paper to the waste basket and miss – and don’t go over to pick it up – you can’t talk about being a loving, merciful person. We miss the point of today’s readings if we only think in terms of winners and losers – righteous / unrighteous rather than just walking over to the corner to pick up the scrap of paper that missed the waste basket and would be left there for someone else to pick up. That’s the crux of “Gospel love.” Don’t just think in terms of being a great saint or successful healer/preacher/teacher … etc. if you don’t start at the beginning with the little things. St. Therese would call this “the little flowers.” Amen!