03 February 2017

‘Which of these three, do you think,
was a neighbour to the woman?’

The Good Samaritan ... a contemporary retelling (click on image for full-screen view of this icon)

Patrick Comerford

We celebrated Candlemas or the Feast of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple yesterday [2 February 2017]. In the morning, it seemed to take a long time for the darkness to clear away to the eventual brightness of the dawn as I presided at the Candlemas Eucharist in the Chapel of the Church of Ireland Theological.

Later in the evening, as darkness had closed in, I was welcomed back in Christ Church Cathedral, and took my former seat in the chapter stalls for the Candlemas Procession and Eucharist.

As I took my place in the cathedral, I was aware that hundreds of people were gathering in Ballsbridge to protest outside the US Embassy to voice their disgust and fears at President Trump’s latest capricious actions against immigrants and refugees, targeting Muslims in particular and posing an immediate threat and danger to people fleeing Syria.

I was made even more aware of this as I listened to the words in the Old Testament reading:

Then I will draw near to you for judgement; I will be swift to bear witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hired workers in their wages, the widow, and the orphan, against those who thrust aside the alien, and do not fear me, says the Lord of hosts (Malachi 3: 5).

In the Gospel story (Luke 2: 22-40), Saint Joseph and the Virgin Mary bring the Christ Child to the Temple in Jerusalem, where the Prophet Simeon foresees how this child is going to be a light to the nations.

They return to their home Nazareth, and I realised how from an early stage in his life, Christ was familiar with the dangers on the road to the Temple in Jerusalem, and yet he could see how people who were marginalised because of they belonged to a different expression of faith were not the principal threats or dangers during our journey in life, but the brigands we do not recognise in our own community.

I wondered whether he might have story of the Parable of the Good Samaritan in another way today?

I retell it from Luke 10:25-37 (with apologies to the translators of the New Revised Standard Version):

25 Just then a Senator stood up to test Jesus. ‘Teacher,’ he said, ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ 26 He said to him, ‘What is written in the law? What do you read there?’ 27 He answered, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbour as yourself.; 28 And he said to him, ‘You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.’

29 But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbour?’ 30 Jesus replied, ‘A woman was going down from Washington to New York, and fell into the hands of robbers with licensed guns, who stripped her, beat her, and went away, leaving her half dead. 31 Now by chance the President was going down that road, making his way to the White House; and when he saw her, he passed by on the other side. 32 So likewise a Republican member of Congress, when he came to the place and saw her, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Muslim refugee from Syria while travelling came near her; and when he saw her, he was moved with pity. 34 He went to her and bandaged her wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put her in his own car, brought her to a Trump Hotel, and took care of her. 35 The next day he took out two credit cards, gave them to the receptionist, and said, ‘Take care of her; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.’ 36 Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbour to the woman who fell into the hands of the robbers?’ 37 He said, ‘The one who showed her mercy.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Go and do likewise.’

But in saying ‘The one who showed her mercy,’ like the lawyer who could not say ‘The Samaritan,’ he could not find the inner strength to say ‘The Syrian,’ ‘The Muslim’ or ‘The refugee.’ Nor could he ask why the others had passed her by.

Anyone from the White House Press Corps who asked about this parable, was told the President does not believe what Jesus says. It is fake news, and the President has alternative facts he believes in.

Jesus is now being deported to the West Bank. As for the woman, I cannot repeat the vulgar, distasteful comments Trump had to make about her.

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