“Who is my neighbor?”

Reflection for the 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time by FAN board President, Sr. Margaret Magee, OSF

This reflection was originally posted in our July 4th newsletter

NeightborGrowing up, I was enchanted by the legends and magical tales of King Arthur and the great wizard, Merlin. The readings for this Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time call to mind a particular part of the story where Merlin instructs the young Arthur on what it means to be a leader. In the legend, Merlin transforms Arthur into an eagle and sends him flying. Arthur is enthralled with the freedom of flight and as he soars to great heights Merlin calls to him, “Arthur, what do you see?” Arthur responds, “I see trees, hills, winding rivers, and fields.” Merlin calls out again, “What else do you see?” Arthur continues, “I see people, pastures and grazing animals.” When Arthur returns, to earth and human form, Merlin asks again, “What did you see?” This time Arthur responds, “There are no boundaries.” Merlin instructs the future king that his sight is true and that there really are no boundaries except those that we build and create with our own hands or construct in our minds.

Throughout history, people and cultures have constructed walls and boundaries, whether physical or symbolic, to claim and possess land, property and their own particular identity and power. From the earliest times tribal wars were waged to conquer neighboring tribes that were seen as different, foreign and a threat. In these fortified tribal lands and cities, neighbors were those of your own clan or those who lived within the protection of the fortified boundaries. Being neighbor was limited and constrictive.

Consider other times in history when walls and fortifications were built, not so much to keep foreigners out but to pen them in like animals, to discriminate, restrict their movement, and their freedom. Consider the Jewish ghettos throughout Europe, precursors to the forced labor camps and concentration camps, and death camps of Nazi Germany. Consider the Berlin Wall, the Iron Curtain, and the internment of Japanese Americans in the U.S. during World War II. When viewed collectively we clearly see and know the sinfulness, the degradation, and immorality of building walls on the foundation of racism, prejudice, hatred and the unjust treatment of others.

In this Sunday’s gospel, when the scholar of the law asks, “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Rather than simply reply, Jesus pointedly asks the scholar to share not only what is written in the law but more importantly, “How do you read it?” Perhaps Jesus sensed this man’s limited and restricted interpretation of God’s law of love. Perhaps he sensed this man’s narrow and discriminating perception.

Jesus’ lesson of the Samaritan traveler reveals God’s true law of love. Unlike ‘men of the law’, the priest and Levite who passed by, this Samaritan ‘a man outside the law’ is moved with compassion, and does not think twice about coming to the aid of the injured. Jesus’ Samaritan traveler, living without the filters and walls of race, status, or nationality, not only reaches out in compassion but invites and instructs the innkeeper to the care and concern for this person in need.

Too often we may think, like the scholar, that our laws will give us the guidance and direction for good living. However, they can also limit and even harden our hearts and attitudes toward others. May we live Christ and image boundless compassion, wholeness and dignity for all our neighbors!

NeightborSr. Margaret Magee, OSF
FAN Board President

Published in: on July 5, 2016 at 8:58 am  Leave a Comment  

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