Who can deny that the world would be a better place if we followed God’s commands to the hilt? No doubt, sincere people take to them like fish to water; they don’t find them difficult to follow, ignore them, play up or spurn them. The natural moral law is etched on our minds and we know it by heart. As the First Reading (Deut. 30: 10-14) says, ‘The Word is very near you: it is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it.’ In the modern lingo, we are hardwired to love God’s law and must beware of worldly-wise, pirated software designed to infect the system!

God is not crazy or eccentric; His law is not ‘out there’, unusual and unconventional. He has had covenants with us, but alas, we have failed to honour them! In days of old, God spoke directly to His people or to a prophet. But then, being invisible had its flip side: God began to seem distant; so, He sent His Only Son to be born of a Virgin. Jesus walked the earth, spoke the language of the land, worked out miracles to everyone’s amazement, and died for our sins in an unprecedented outpouring of love. The essence of his parting message was that we love God and neighbour.

But isn’t that easier said than done? In the Gospel (Lk 10: 25-37), a Jewish scriptural scholar, after admitting that one can inherit eternal life only by loving God (Deut 6: 5) and neighbour as oneself (Lev 19: 18), demands to know who is our ‘neighbour’. His question makes sense for, to the Jews, only a member of their religion or race was a ‘neighbour’. The scholar probably wished to hear a novel definition that would navigate through issues like religion and ethnicity (Jews/Gentiles) gender and class (clean/unclean). Instead, Jesus responded with a parable that unimaginably expanded the scope of the term; and He topped it up with a question that dispelled all doubts!

In that touching and famous Parable of the Good Samaritan – reported by St Luke alone – he who attended to that half-dead man, with compassion, was from a region that the Jews looked down upon, thanks to their mixed ethnicity and their worship outside Jerusalem. Yet, Jesus introduces us to an individual Samaritan whose behaviour is a far cry from that of the Jewish priest and the Levite (temple assistant from the Hebrew tribe of Levi). Were these two too busy to stop and help, or were they merely playing it safe, for touching a dead man would prevent them from carrying out their temple duties! Or maybe not, for Jesus talks about them going from Jerusalem to Jericho, and not the other way around. While Jesus leaves the backstory a mystery, we can rest assured that God had moved the Samaritan to set an example to generations to come!

Which brings us to the Second Reading (Col 1: 15-20) in which St Paul emphasises that Jesus alone can inspire and help us humans to love and serve. The Apostle of the Gentiles portrays Christ as the mediator between Creation and Redemption: He who was present at the time of the creation of the world will also be the One through whom the world will be redeemed. Shouldn’t He, then, be the focus of our life? Our life makes sense only through Him. Note the repetition of the word ‘all’ in the passage: the writer wishes to emphasise the fact that there is nothing outside Him who is the Way, the Truth and the Life. He is the be-all and end-all of our existence. This reality can never be emphasised enough, lest we begin to sacrifice the truth of the Gospel to the distorted values of the contemporary world.

The values of the contemporary world are centred on money, influence and power. They keep us bonded; they prevent us from reaching out to others in love, as Jesus did. Subservience to the material world is a despicable form of bondage that only God’s laws have the power to liberate us from. Hence, Jesus alone is deserving of our trust and confidence; He is our only model for doing things through love. So, it is not good businessmen but Good Samaritans are God’s instruments of hope – fools for Christ, in this mad, mad world!

However, being a Good Samaritan does not mean being naïve; it does not demand suspension of our critical faculties. In the near-Godless world we live in, steeped in malice and misunderstanding, Good Samaritans must indeed act with discernment. Wherever we may find ourselves – be it at home or at work; in a school or a hospital, in the street or on the battlefield – reaching out to our neighbour is of the essence. One sure way of doing this is to ward off pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath, and sloth. When we evict those seven trespassers, God comes into our minds and hearts, moving us to be Good Samaritans in a way that is most pleasing to Him.