We have just recently celebrated the Solemnity of Brotherly Love, a feast which is unique to the Polish National Catholic Church. While the feast is unique to our Church, it is truly a universal Christian and Catholic ideal that Brotherly Love should be a part of the everyday thoughts and actions of a follower of Jesus Christ. This year as well the Solemnity of Brotherly Love fell on the 15th anniversary of the tragic events of 9/11. As a part of our remembrance we reflected back to the horrible acts that are sometimes done in the name of hatred, but we also honored the many acts of brotherly love that we offered that day, one person to another.
As a part of the Brotherly Love celebration the Church reflected on the parable of the Good Samaritan. This parable of our Lord Jesus Christ is given to us as a response to the question of the Scholar of the law after hearing the Two Commandments of Love. In the Gospel of Luke, the Scholar of the law askes Jesus, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Luke 10:25b) Jesus does not answer, but rather asks him, “What is written in the law? How do you read it?” (Luke 10:26b) The Scholar answers, “You shall love the Lord, your God with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27) Jesus answered approvingly, “You have answered correctly; do this and you will live.” (Luke 10:28).
Before going on to the parable itself, we need to take a look at these Two Commandments of Love and how this pertains to us today. We notice that Jesus did not just simply give an answer to the question, but rather asked the Scholar what he already knew. This reminds us that for most of us we are not ignorant of what is expected of us as worshipping Catholic Christians. We have received catechetical instructions at church, we have heard a number of sermons on the topic, and even at its most basic, we have learned from our own parents and families what the basic teachings of the Bible are. This issue is not what we might know, but rather, as Jesus says to the Scholar, “Do this and you will live.” The point is that the teaching must be put into action. We must actually love God and honor Him. This is something that the Polish National Catholic Church has been trying to bring to the forefront in this Year of Reverence. How do we show our love for Almighty God and how are we putting this into action in our lives today? And of course we are also seeking to expand this Reverence that we as Polish National Catholics share.
When we consider this idea of expanding our Reverence, we begin by asking, if someone who does not know anything about us or our Church practices walks into our parish church on a Sunday morning, would that person say that we love God by just looking at our actions? Hopefully they would hear our voices lifted in song, they would see our heads bowed in prayer, they would see us receive Holy Communion and then each of us spending some time in private reflection about the greatness of this moment of communion with God and they hopefully would acknowledge that the members of our congregation have a connection to and love for God. But would the opinion of us be the same if this same person were to encounter us during the coffee hour following Mass? Would it be different on Monday morning as we go off to work or school? Would it be different if we were seen at a time when we are at home with our family or by ourselves? The question is not only what we know and what we have learned is the correct relationship with God and neighbor, but it is more importantly what we do in this regard. Again, Jesus did not say, “Know this,” or “Believe this,” in response to the Two Commandments of Love, but rather He said, “Do this and you will live.”
It is at this point the Scholar asks the question to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” In this the Scholar is seeking to draw a line and place different individuals on one side or the other. It is as if he is asking “Where is the limit of my love for a neighbor?” or “Who are the people that I have to love and who are the people that I can exclude?”
The question when put in this manner seems rather stark. It goes against what we have all learned as young members of the Church. But if we really think about it, I am sure that it is something we have all been a part of in our thinking and in how we act.
Jesus’ response to the Scholar is not a direct lesson, but rather a parable followed with a question. It might be instructive for us to listen to the parable once again. “A man fell victim to robbers as he went from Jerusalem to Jericho. They stripped him and beat him and went off leaving him half-dead. A priest happened to be going down that road, but when he saw him, he passed by on the opposite side. Likewise a Levite came to the place, and when he saw him, he passed by on the opposite side. But a
Samaritan traveler who came upon him was moved with compassion at the sight. He approached the victim, poured oil and wine over his wounds and bandaged them. Then he lifted him up on his own animal, took him to an inn and cared for him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper with the instruction, ‘Take care of him. If you spend more than what I have given you, I shall repay you on my way back.’ Which of these three, in your opinion, was neighbor to the robbers’ victim?” (Luke 10:30-36)
If we take a closer look at this parable, we see that it could apply to each of us in several different ways. This sort of exercise is one that we can put into practice in looking at any piece of Scripture. After reading a section of Scripture, take time to see
yourself in each position. This can be especially instructive for the parables, because it is in these passages that not only one lesson, but often several lessons are there for us to receive. It is also true that in our religious journey we are sometimes in different positions at different times, and so we must consider all of the positions of those in the parable.
The most obvious position is that of the outsider looking on, as the Scholar is. It is to him that Jesus asks the question, “Which of these three, in your opinion, was neighbor to the robbers’ victim?” The Scholar replies with the obvious answer, “The one who treated him with mercy.” Again Jesus responds, “Go and do likewise.” (Luke 10:36-37) Again here we notice that the operative word is the command to “Do likewise.”
But in seeking to actually put this mercy into action, we are then called to see ourselves in the place of the Samaritan. In considering this it is helpful to know that for the Judeans, the Samaritans were considered outsiders. Although they were nominally believers, they didn’t worship and believe in the right way. So we can see here that the Samaritan was able to perform a deed of mercy for one that he knew may not like him or even want to be near him. And yet, he pushed through this possibly difficult situation in order to do what was needed and right for this situation. A man was injured and in need of care, in fact he might not have even been sure that the victim was alive. In putting himself in this difficult situation, the Samaritan may even have been accused of committing the crime if others saw him there. But putting all that aside and accepting that showing mercy was the most important of actions, he came up to the victim, gave rudimentary medical treatment and then carried him to a place of safety where he could be cared for.
And the mercy did not end here. Certainly the Samaritan could have just left him near the closest village thinking that eventually someone would come along to care for him. He could have taken him to the inn and left him there saying, “Some of you people need to care for your fellow Judean.” But this was not the case, the Samaritan saw this encounter through to the end. After the treatment and the ride, he cared for him at the inn and even then made payment for his care, and promised to pay more if it was needed.
It was to this highest level of mercy and compassion that Jesus calls us to when he said, “Go and do likewise.” But there are other lessons to be learned if we look at the other characters in the parable. For instance we can begin with the victim himself. Sometimes we find ourselves in this role when we are in need of care from others. Did the victim put up a fight when he saw the Samaritan there to help him? How would we react in the same situation? Are we willing to accept help from those whom we may have a difference with? In this situation the victim allowed the Samaritan to give him aid, and take him to the inn and even pay for his care and stay there. Would we accept this kind of care and mercy from someone with whom we disagreed? Looking at this position reminds us we must not only perform acts of mercy, but also let others show mercy to us at times when we are in need.
We can also put ourselves in the position of the priest or the Levite. They encountered the victim on the road and when they saw him they passed by on the other side. Both of these people made choices regarding their actions. It is here that we can try to uncover their motivation. Possibly they were on their way to some important function; perhaps the temple or other important action. They decided that their own concerns were more important than showing love and mercy at that time. This is important for us to consider in our lives today. Do we put our own selves and our own concerns before others? Are the needs of others secondary to our own? And of course in considering the question of “Who is my neighbor?” we can ask, “Where do we draw that line of secondary needs?” While we might say that for a family member or a child we would certainly come to their immediate aid, but for someone else we would not consider their needs a priority.
Lastly we might consider the position of the innkeeper in the parable. How would we feel when the Samaritan came in with the victim? Would our thinking change after we saw how he cared for the victim? Would it change further when he offered to pay for the care of the victim? In considering this position, do you think that the innkeeper might have been challenged to help in caring for the victim? When offered the extra money on the return trip, would he possibly say to the Samaritan, “Don’t worry about it. I’ll help to care for him and cover the costs.”? Would others at the inn be challenged to come to his aid as well? We know that acts of love and mercy will challenge others to show the same kind of love and mercy as well. It is for this reason that we should not only surround ourselves with those who are good Christian examples, but we should also strive to be a good example for others in our families and in our lives.
We see from this exercise that this parable of our Lord Jesus Christ has much to tell us in the ways of showing love and mercy to others who are around us. Ultimately we know that the major lesson is that Brother Love must be shown, not only to those who are close to us, but rather in fact to all people, to all who are in need. We must also remember that this parable and this Solemnity also mesh with this Year of Reverence within the Polish National Catholic Church. One of the goals of this year is to have our parishes reach out to their local communities to provide support and help. This goal is the putting of the Solemnity of Brotherly Love into action. It is taking the words of Jesus seriously when He said, “Go and do likewise.” Our Brotherly Love must, in this way, be shown at every level – the personal, the family and the parish.
As we are also preparing for the Solemnity of the Christian Family in a few short weeks let us also remind ourselves that there is a connection between these two unique celebrations of the P.N.C.C. Through the Solemnity of Brotherly Love we see that we are to extend love and mercy to all people, in other words, we are to treat all people as if they are family. We see then in the Solemnity of the Christian Family that all the levels of relationship that we have – our individual families, our parish families and the entire family of the Church – are to be that group which shows and has Brotherly Love. But this is the story for the online presentation to be viewed on Wednesday, October 5, 2016 at 7:00 p.m. I encourage all Polish National Catholics to view this presentation that day, either as individuals or with your parish family. And if you can’t view it then at least at some point before the Solemnity of the Christian Family on Sunday, October 9, 2016. Information on the presentation will be received via the Future Direction emails. If you are not receiving them, please send your email address to firstname.lastname@example.org so you can receive information on this online presentation as well as all of the good things occurring within the Polish National Catholic Church.