Peace and Praise

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A couple of pieces this week that moved me.

1. from Calah Alexander: The Jew, the Samaritan, the ‘Other’, me

When I read the parable of the Good Samaritan, I’m always the Samaritan. The Jew is usually some hopelessly out-of-touch, uber-judgmental fundamentalist type whom I benevolently aid, despite the aspersions he or she is casting at my nose ring, resulting in said fundie’s eternal gratitude and repentance for being such a hypocrite until I showed them the error of their self-righteous ways.

Everyone will always be “the Other” to me, until I can accept that the neighbor God wants me to love as myself is the one whom I like the least. The one who makes me crazy. The one who makes me want to jump across the fence or into the computer or through the television so I can dish out a smack-down.

Sometimes, some horrible times, those people are the ones playing the Good Samaritan to my wounded Jew.

Maybe this is where peace starts. Not in the willingness to extend it to others, but in the willingness to accept it as a viable option. In the willingness to stop trying to prove myself right, or justified, but to just shut up already. Even if it takes 1700 words to do so.

2. from Elizabeth Duffy: “Let Everything that Breathes Praise the Lord!”

Other people’s bounteous flowers that once made me so envious–they don’t happen by accident. There is probably some woman stirring up a pitcher of miracle gro before I’m even awake. Life is not an accident. Someone always initiates and tends it.

I suppose it takes some time before the desire for life is reconciled with the responsibility it entails. Every morning my eyes flicker open out of a sense of duty, but I’m not usually happy about it until a couple of hours have passed. There’s work to be done, and I hate it, until I’ve completed it. Then I love it. But if I never do it, somehow the whole day feels like hate.

2 Responses to Peace and Praise

  1. Sharon September 14, 2013 at 10:30 pm #

    Jews became ritually unclean when they came into contact with a dead body – one reason tombs were whitewashed. If the priest and the Levite who saw the injured man thought he was dead and therefore beyond help I could understand they wouldn’t want to undergo the rituals over, I think, a week by which they could be made clean and participate in the Temple ceremonies. I have never understood why these men were the “bad guys” when they were obeying laws of which God approved or were these laws ones invented by the Pharisees?

    That said I do understand that this story is a parable and has a spiritual meaning.

  2. Melanie Bettinelli September 14, 2013 at 11:50 pm #

    Sharon,

    I remember having that explained to me. You are correct, they had good reasons not to stop. (And so do I have good reasons when I keep on going, when I ignore the neighbor who might need help because I really am so very busy.) They aren’t really bad guys. Jesus could anticipate that his audience would identify with them, would understand them and sympathize with them. As is so often the case, he calls them to look at the situation with new eyes. They aren’t the bad guys.They are the everyman, they are all of us when every day we fail to pick up our cross to follow Christ to our own crucifixion. We do the easy thing, the socially acceptable thing, the understandable thing. But Jesus calls us to do the unexpected, to become the outcast, to take on the curse.

    A constant theme in Jesus’ teaching is the need to go deeper, to look beyond the letter of the law and to see that the deeper purpose of the law is love. The law exists to put us in right relationship with God and neighbor. When following the law caused the children Israel to fail in relationship with the rest of the world, to become isolationist instead of going forth to bring all nations to God, then the law had failed. They needed to go deeper, to fully understand the radical call of love that God wanted them to have for their neighbors. This is why Jesus overturns the law. It wasn’t enough. It could never be enough. It was the training wheel that had to come off.

    Lisa Hendey has had some great blog posts recently in which she looks more deeply at Pope Francis’ tweets. Here’s the first that caught my eye: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/lisahendey/2013/08/we-cannot-sleep-peacefully/
    And here’s the most recent one: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/lisahendey/2013/09/pontifex-ponderings-is-it-a-beautiful-day-in-your-neighborhood/ And isn’t this question about who is my neighbor that Pope Francis puts forward the message at the heart of the Good Samaritain parable?

    In this most recent one she contemplates the message: “Sometimes it is possible to live without knowing our neighbours: this is not Christian.” I can’t tell you how much both of these challenge me. Because even with Jesus’ words and example what he’s calling us to do, to love our neighbor even at the expense of our own comfort, our own understandable need to keep going with our own important lives, is radical. They aren’t the bad guys, but they aren’t willing or perhaps even able to be radical in their love for the stranger.

    When he died and was buried Jesus took on himself the curse of the law, the uncleanliness of the tomb, “cursed the man who hangs on the tree”. He became exactly what the Pharisee and Levite feared they might become and more.

    I think the children of Israel needed the experience of living under the Law, of conforming themselves to that very difficult set of rules, before they could get to the point where Jesus comes into the story to show them that following God’s law isn’t enough because on our own we just can’t get there. One way to read the story is that Jesus himself is the Samaritan. Only when Jesus the Samaritan condescends to get his hands dirty, becomes polluted for the sake of the dying man, only then can we be saved. Because really when you dig deep enough you can see yourself in all the characters in the story. We are the Levite who doesn’t stop but we are also the dying man and we need Jesus to save us and heal us. Only then can we conform ourselves to him and become like the Samaritan.

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