“And who is my neighbor?”

How timely is today’s Gospel reading from Luke 19:25-37!

There was a scholar of the law who stood up to test him and said,
“Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
Jesus said to him, “What is written in the law?
How do you read it?”
He said in reply,
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.”
He replied to him, “You have answered correctly;
do this and you will live.”

But because he wished to justify himself, he said to Jesus,
And who is my neighbor?
Jesus replied,
“A man fell victim to robbers
as he went down from Jerusalem to Jericho.
They stripped 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?”
He answered, “The one who treated him with mercy.”
Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”

Considering all that transpired in America this week, this reading seems particularly apropos: the killing of police officers and civilians in Dallas, the killing by police of Black civilians over minor infractions of the law in Louisiana and Minnesota. Did the perpetrators stop to ask, “Who is my neighbor?”

Now, Jesus didn’t ask the question, but he did answer it.

We are so disconnected from one another in American life today. No one is our neighbor if they don’t live right next door, and sometimes even then we don’t consider them our neighbor in the context in which Jesus uses it. America is fractured. It is a nation of disassociated peoples, a broken family. And the politics and economics of the day only make it worse.

Jesus teaches us different. In this particular example, the one needing our love and our concern is our neighbor. But implicit in Jesus’ example is that the one who is different from us is our neighbor, too. Every person in God’s creation is our neighbor and worthy of our regard and our respect and our love. “Love your neighbor as yourself,” He affirms. “Which of these three was neighbor?” The one who treated him with mercy. “Go and do likewise,” Jesus instructs.

I write this blog to bring light to Jesus’ words. Because frequently people who call themselves Christians ask, “What Would Jesus Do,” then fail to do what Jesus would do, indeed did do. Lots of people in Dallas and Louisiana and Minnesota who are fighting over Black Lives Matter and Blue Lives Matter are missing the point. Jesus would agree with both. Blacks are our neighbors. Police officers are our neighbors. And Jesus commands us to love them as ourselves.

This shouldn’t be a contest over which lives matter most. It is about recognizing that lives being taken is wrong. And if you’re going to call yourself a Christian (or a Catholic), you need to remember Jesus’ stance on life and love of neighbor. All neighbors.

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