This homily was given at Our Lady of the Mountain Parish, Ashland, OR on the Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, July 10, 2022. The audio is available here.
Sometimes, the most painful wounds leave no mark on the body.
Take this man, for example, going down from Jerusalem to Jericho.
They beat him up, stripped him, robbed him blind, and left him for dead by the side of the road.
But as he lay there in the dirt, drifting in and out of consciousness, exposed, helpless…
He was aware of strangers passing by, one by one.
He heard their footsteps as they went about their business.
One after another, going up to Jerusalem.
They might have looked at him curiously.
The pious surely said a prayer for him or offered a berakah, a Jewish blessing.
But not one stopped to help.
The opposite of love is not hatred…
And no beating or cut from a sword can cut so deeply as the wound in the heart: the conviction … that no one cares.
Faced with the indifference of others toward our suffering, some of us choose to toughen up, make ourselves self-reliant.
We pick ourselves up, stagger onward, and learn never to be taken advantage of that way again.
Sooner or later, the bruises heal and the cuts turn into scars.
But the wound in the heart remains.
We take care never to be in need, because we know we can’t trust anyone else to be there for us when it counts.
One day, we pass by someone else lying half-dead on the side of the road.
And though we feel a stirring of mercy, our habits of self-protection have become too deeply embedded.
The walls around our hearts have become too strong.
“If I try and help him, I could get hurt.”
“What will people think of me?”
“I don’t have time.”
“I can’t afford it.”
“Let him pull himself up by his bootstraps.”
“Nobody ever helped me.”
Friends, I have been that man by the side of the road.
And I have been the man who passes by.
The Church Fathers say that man is Adam.
He’s all of us.
Wounded by sin and the casual cruelty of others, and powerless to overcome our own hardness of heart.
But there is one who cares enough about suffering to do something about it.
As Jesus sees a man suffering and alone, abandoned on life’s journey, he does not pass by on the other side of the road.
He comes down from Heaven to heal us, His mercy attracted by our misery.
And if we allow Him to approach, Jesus lovingly washes and bandages our wounds.
Then, like the Good Samaritan, he brings us to an inn and pays well for our stay, saying to the innkeeper: “Take care of him, my beloved one.”
That inn is the Church.
We are here because Jesus has rescued us and brought us here.
Now, as we are healed by His mercy, Jesus asks us to take care of others.
We who call this inn our home are to become innkeepers ourselves.
Jesus brings us His beloved poor, the sick, the suffering, the depressed, the abandoned.
It might be a family member with cancer.
It might be a friend struggling with depression, or a stranger on the street.
Every person who comes into our lives is our neighbor, and Jesus, the Good Samaritan, entrusts them to our care.
Today, at this Holy Mass, ask Jesus for the grace to be good neighbors.
We are good neighbors when we dare to approach someone in need, putting to death our habits of self-protection and reaching out to them.
We are good neighbors when we pay a visit or make a phone call to a suffering friend and really listen, giving them our loving care and attention, and doing what we can to provide for their needs.
As we receive the Body of Christ, the sacrament of love, we pray to love others as we have been loved by Him.
For it is by loving that we repay the gift of love, which heals our wounds.
Jesus promises, “Whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.”
And on the last day, when the dead are raised, and death and illness and suffering are no more, we shall hear Him say:
“‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”