Going Deeper with the Parable of the Good Samaritan

The Parable of the Good Samaritan is often read by many in a rather single manner to mean that we ought to be more generous to those in need or that we ought to not neglect those who suffer. Perhaps too, that racial and ethnic boundaries must be overcome as we broaden what it means to consider some one a neighbor.  All of this is fine enough, there are plenty of social justice themes at work here to permit such a reading and they ought not be neglected. But as is always the case with scripture, there is more at work here than the merely obvious interpretation. In effect the whole passage before us goes a long way to show some of the deeper drives we have regarding the pride and self-righteousness, along with a stubborn tendency we have to reduce holiness to something “manageable” and merely human. Let’s take a look.

1. There was a scholar of the law  who stood up to test him and said, “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”  (Luke 10:25) – On the face of it this question is absurd. It is rooted in self-justifying notions. What must I DO to obtain eternal life….The simple fact is that we cannot save ourselves. We do not have the resources to obtain eternal life. No amount of human flesh power could even come close to paying the debt we owe. We do not have a rocket ship powerful enough to fly to heaven. We have no ladder tall enough to climb there. The lawyer’s flawed question sets him up for a series of misunderstandings about salvation and the absolute need for grace. Because he thinks that eternal life is somehow in his power to obtain it he looks more and more foolish as the interaction goes on.

2.  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.”  (Luke 10:26-28) In way Jesus is humoring him and drawing him out. The man has suggested that salvation is in his power to accomplish. So, in effect Jesus says to him, “Since you think such a thing is possible, explain to me how you think so with your legal background.” The lawyer quotes the great Shema, the summary of the whole law contained in Deuteronomy 6. Now there is nothing wrong with the Law, and so Jesus says, “You have answered rightly.” But what IS wrong is thinking that this law is within my own unaided flesh power to keep. To love God with our whole heart, mind, being and strength is a remarkable call that should not be taken lightly or reduced a few ritual tokenary things. The honest truth is that most human beings do not love God this way and NO human being apart from grace even stands a chance of getting close. The human mind and heart apart from grace have been so wounded as to make such a law unattainable. The fact is not only do human beings (apart form grace) not love God with their whole heart, they barely give him leftovers. The usual human approach is to serve myself and the world and then, from whatever is left, I’ll throw a few scraps to God. I’ll pray, if I have time left over at the end of my busy worldly day. I’ll read scripture if it doesn’t interfere with my watching of the sports event or soap opera. I’ll put money in the collection plate after I pay my mortgage, Sears bill, magazine subscriptions and see what is left over. I’ll follow the teachings of God so long as they don’t interfere with my politics or worldview. So God barely gets leftovers from most people and that includes many who describe themselves as religious. For us to think we, by ourselves,  are really going to pull off loving God with our whole heart, mind, being and strength or even come close is absurd on the face of it. And we haven’t even considered loving our neighbor yet! Jesus answers the lawyer (probably with his tongue firmly planted in his cheek) “Do this and you will live.” 🙂  He might as well have told him to leap a tall building in a single bound or to define the universe and give three examples. Does the lawyer really have any idea what it means to “do this?!” Surely not, as we see next.

3.  But because he wished to justify himself, he said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:29) And now we surely have reached the endgame of legalism and trying to be justified by our own flesh power. In effect the Lawyer says, “OK, if I have to love my neighbor as myself, let’s keep the meaning of neighbor as minimal and manageable as possible.” In other words if there are too many neighbors running around, with the requirement that I love them as myself, I might not be able to pull the thing off. So let’s dumb down and minimize what and who is meant by neighbor. This is what the flesh does. It salutes God’s law but doesn’t really take it seriously. The usual tactic of the flesh is to argue about meaning (e.g. the famous, “That depends on what the meaning of the word “is” is.”) and then to minimize the observance as much as possible by all sorts of legalistic minimalism. Hence the lawyer seeks to quibble over a precise definition of “neighbor” and keep that category as small and minimal as possible. He has to do this because he wants to accomplish the Shema on his own, by his own merit and power.

4. Jesus doesn’t take the bait and goes on to tell the well known parable of the Good Samaritan. With it he devastates the concept of a small manageable notion of neighbor. Neighbor cuts across national, ethnic, religious and political boundaries to encompass…..everyone. Jesus will not accept the reductionist demands of the flesh and its legalism.

5. He also sets aside another form of reductionism in the parable, that of religious reductionism. A priest and Levite pass also and refuse to help to victim by the roadside. Perhaps they were afraid, perhaps they had concerns about blood which would render them unclean and unfit for Temple duties. But whatever their reasons they also represent the human tendency to think we can buy God off by religious observances. If I go to Church, pay my tithes, and say a few prayers I can check off the “God box,” consider myself righteous and to have met all my duties. It becomes all too easy to walk past the needy, to walk past injustice, to tolerate evil, to remain silent and protect my hide and ego and all the while think God won’t mind because I sat in the pew last Sunday. This is just another form of reductionism and the Lord’s parable makes it clear that he is not impressed. We can’t buy God off. We ought to be in Church every Sunday, financially support the word of God, pray and so one. There is no excuse for not doing these things. But they are not the end of faith, they are the beginning of faith. If I really sat in the pew last Sunday to any real effect that I cannot walk on past the needy, ignore injustice, tolerate evil or remain silent in the face of error.

6. Thus in the end the love of God and neighbor are expansive loves that go beyond the ability of the unaided flesh to do. Without the healing of grace we are simply too selfish, greedy, egotistical, thin-skinned, resentful, envious, bitter, lustful and revengeful to even come close to loving God and our neighbor the way that is described. We have to stop playing games with God’s Word and stop trying to explain it in a way that makes it manageable. God’s word means what it says. And, with our unaided flesh it is impossible to fulfill it.

7. What then are we to do? Seek lots of grace and mercy. This parable is about more than caring for the poor. It is also about the absolute need for grace. Only with tons of grace and mercy do we even stand a chance in coming close to what the Shema sets forth. Only God can really give God the love he deserves. Only God can really love the poor as they ought to be loved. That is why we have to die to our self and allow Jesus Christ to live his life in us. He does this through the sacraments fruitfully received, through faith mediation on his Word and through prayer. Those who faithfully attend Mass and regularly receive communion worthily, those who confess their sins frequently and fruitfully receive the graces of that sacrament, those who faithfully and thoughtfully meditate on God’s Word, begin to experience a transformation that enables them to love. They receive a new heart and a new mind, the heart and mind of Christ. As Christ lives in them they see the Shema come alive, they begin to love God above all things and their neighbor as their very self. And it is not they who do it. It is Christ who does it in them.

8. What must I do to inherit eternal life? I must decrease and Christ must increase (Jn 3:30). I must die so that Christ may live in me (Gal 2:19-20).

The audio version of my homily is here: Going Deeper with the Good Samaritan

This song says, “When you see me trying to do good, It’s just Jesus in me….Loving my neighbor like a Christian should, It’s just Jesus in me.”

40 Replies to “Going Deeper with the Parable of the Good Samaritan”

  1. When praying about the parable of the Good Samaritan I was wondering about whom the person on the side of the road could be in today’s society, and after thinking about various down and out individuals, I eventually had to admit I also was in that ditch at one time in my life. But it was God’s chosen ones that gave me hope and pointed me towards Jesus and his Church, where in time I was healed and made whole. He truly is our health and salvation.

  2. God bless you Father! Until I saw the old me “die” by turning toward God and away from the flesh, I would have a VERY hard time forgiving those who have hurt me in the past. The human ego just will not allow it. The grace of God IS the only thing that can help us attain that which he asks. Since I began breaking and trying to break all the ties with all that tempts the flesh or that which was associated with the old “fleshy” me and embrace the Father and all that he has given me (Wife, family, sacraments, rosary etc.) I am amazed at how I can just let go. Genuinely forgive in my heart and even find the desire to pray for those in my past who, back then, I just assume put through a wall. I still struggle at times, the flesh will always be present BUT so will the spirit and that is what I try to focus on.

    Praying silently rather than out loud has helped ALOT. Instead of focusing the words on my lips, I focus them on my mind. Doing so, pushes the flesh aside and in a sense encases my mind (not brain, there is a difference) in the spirit. When my mind is focused purely on the spirit, and the flesh diminished, I find all my TRUE desires rise from my heart and go to the Lord. I can literally feel it! As the bible says, (paraphrasing) speak little when you pray, the Father already knows your needs. It really is true. When I pray in this manner I don’t “talk” to God much afterward since during the course of the prayers I feel everything go to God. Thank you for a truely inspiring post and please stay strong through this very trying time for the church, particularly when it comes to our Priests. We the truely devout may be few Father, but we need you and all the good men who have given so much to try to help us see the way to heaven.

  3. Fantastic! Boy or boy do I have a ways to go! I wonder how many people will read this! And then I wonder how many people will really live this message! Thank you for this message. I will be sending the link to several of my friends to solicit their thoughts.

  4. Monsignor, and all historists, I need your help regarding this parable. I once heard from a Priest, after a pilgrimage in the Holy Land, a story regarding this parable, which if true, may help illistrate one of the themes of this article: ‘6. Thus in the end the love of God and neighbor are expansive loves that go beyond the ability of the unaided flesh to do.’

    The Priest was on tour bus with his pilgrims. At some point the tour guide brought to the attention of the pilgrims a pile of rubble or ruins off in the distance visible from the road they were travelling. The tour guide proceeded to tell the pilgrims that these were the ruins of the Inn of the Parable of the Good Samaritan.

    ‘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.’

    The Priest, however, had to inform the Pilgrims that the Parable of the Good Samaritan was not an actual historic event and that there never was any Inn. The parable is stricktly an allegory used by Jesus to illustrate his points. (much to the Pilgrims dismay as they had already taken many photos.) He went on to say, Jesus meant the character of the ‘Good Samaritan’ to actually represent Jesus Himself. Apparenty, back then, according to the law, one would become defiled by touching the dead and, therefore, not likely that ANYONE would ever have the courage to attempt it. To approach a ‘half-dead’ man on the side of the road back then would have required a Supernatural act of Grace to overcome and accompish?

    Way out on limb here, hoping for feedback!!


    1. It is certainly correct that the parable is not recounting an historical event – it is a moral tale. Unfortunately you get a lot of questionable sites in the holy land. A good tour guide can distinguish between real sites and the tourist traps.

      Not sure that’ve ever thought Jesus was referring to himself as the GOod Samaritan. It is true however that he touched the dead and lepers too. SO the view is not wholly without merit. However I don’t think that is the parables main intent.

      1. The Church Fathers interpreted the parable allegorically and Christologically, with Christ being the Good Samaritan, the injured man being a sinner, the oil and wine being the sacraments, the inn being the Church, etc… However, this does not necessarily mean that Jesus was primarily referring to himself as the Good Samaritan, but rather, that the Holy Spirit has added a second layer of meaning to Jesus’ words. That reading just doesn’t make sense in the context of his conversation with the lawyer, the literal reading, to which allegorical readings remain subordinate.

        It’s a bit like how we interpret the blood and water that flowed from Jesus’ side as an allegory for the sacraments. Obviously, Jesus did not personally intend that, since he was dead at the time, and it was the soldier acting, but on a deeper level, it was part of his providence for that to happen as a sign to us, and also, to have it recorded in the Scriptures.

        Excellent homily, Father. The highlight of my morning.

      2. “Obviously, Jesus did not personally intend that, since he was dead at the time, and it was the soldier acting, but on a deeper level, it was part of his providence for that to happen as a sign to us, and also, to have it recorded in the Scriptures.”

        You’re going to have to be a bit careful here. Jesus is God and hence all-powerful and all-knowing and death doesn’t mean non-existence.

        The entire basis of typology is based on the providence of God to prepare his children in figures and shadows for the reality of what is to come. God can do this since he is the author of history. In 1 Cor 10 Paul talks about the unfaithfulness of Israel in the desert and then says “Now these things occurred as types to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did” Notice that Paul says that this is a teaching for *us*. Even through that people’s disobedience, God was purposefully fathering mankind.

  5. To my mind you are too hard on the legal scholar’s first question, Monsignor (I grant you his motives were base, but that is a different point).

    The rich man, too, asked:- “what must I do to obtain eternal life?” (Mt.19:16; Mk.10:17). There was nothing ironical in Our Lord’s reply:- “If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.” Of course, the rich man really wanted to know the answer whereas the scholar knew it already – but the question was valid nonetheless.

    As for the answer, the synoptics all record the summation of the law as love of God (Deut.6:5) and love of neighbour (Lev.19:18). It just so happens that Matthew (22:34-40, another misfired sparring match) and Mark (12:28-34, a beautiful encounter) both have Our Lord saying it, whereas Luke has the scholar say it. It is surely impossible to claim Our Lord’s approval in Luke (“Do this and you will live”) is tongue-in-cheek.

    The parable doesn’t address the legal definition of “neighbour” (the trap the scholar had set) but, very precisely, what is one to DO – what does the law of love entail? We see this clearly from the final exchange:- “Which of these three . . was neighbor to the robbers’ victim?” and the reply is:- “The one who treated him with mercy.” In Greek the answer is ho poiēsas tò éleos (the one who DID the act of mercy). Jesus (picking up the verb) responds, “Go and DO likewise” (. . kaì sù poíei homoíōs).

    1. Yes, and my point is that we cannot keep the commandments (except in a perfunctory way) without grace. The whole sermon on the mount illustrates that Jesus expects a fulfillment of the law not a perfunctory keeping of paired down understandings of the commandments. Hence, “keep the commandments” is not an incidental instruction that we can pull off unaided. The Lawyer in this parable “wanted to justify himself” this is afatal error and refuting it is the main point of my refelction.

      1. Let me go back to what you wrote, Monsignor:- “On the face of it this question is absurd. It is rooted in self-justifying notions. What must I DO to obtain eternal life . . The lawyer’s flawed question sets him up for a series of misunderstandings about salvation and the absolute need for grace. Because he thinks that eternal life is somehow in his power to obtain it he looks more and more foolish as the interaction goes on.”

        Your account of the interaction between Our Lord and the legal scholar (grounded as it is in the theology of grace – which was not fully explicated for another 400 years) still strikes me as an over-interpretation. You read the phrase “he wished to justify himself” (Lk.10:29) as a denial of the need for grace, but the legal scholar wanted to vindicate himself dialectically, surely. The situation is very different in the parable of the pharisee and the publican, where the latter went home “justified” (Lk.18:14).

        In any case, my contention remains that there was nothing “flawed” about the question “What must I DO to obtain eternal life?”; nothing flawed in the scholar’s answer to his own question (love of God and of neighbor); and nothing “tongue-in-cheek” about Our Lord’s agreement:- “You have answered correctly; do this and you will live”.

        If the encounter had ended there, it would have been quite close to the exchange at Mk.12:28-34. The scholarly and lawyerly itch to score a point (Lk.10:29) casts no shadow either over the previous exchange or over the fact that he promptly accepted the force of the parable (Lk.10:37).

      2. *****
        Ah, Bain, you are ever the scholar. Your distinctions are good and your arguement well stated but I am ever the preacher and preaching will often take a point and magnify it. What I wrote is a sermon not an article in a scholarly journal. Good sermons often use hyperbole and focus on one thing. Jesus in the gospel for today’s daily Mass does a bit of this when he says that he has not come to bring peace but the sword. Later he says that peace is his farewell gift. He distinguishes as it were between two types of peace but he does these at different times and not in the same sermon or article if you will. Hence, I appraciate your additions and distinctions as I have often said since they complete the picture. But every sermon cannot or article cannot look to every possible aspect of the problem or every use of a Greek word or make every possible disinction. That must some times be left ot future sermons or to the comments section!

        My only regret is that you see “nothing” flawed in the scholars approach. Your first response to my article was more inclusive and raised the thought that there was some more at work here than what I had set forth. A wholly acceptable and likely fact. But your use of “nothing” leaves me a bit concerned that you yourself may be over-reaching. Or is it that you are sermonizing like me and adding a bit of hyperbolic flare and perhaps you are willing to make distinctions in another sermon!

        Another interesting concept in biblical interpretation is the time machine problem. You contend that the theology of grace was only developed 400 years later. To some extent I understand your point though I think St. Paul might like a little more recongntion than you are willing to give him. Nevertheless, lets stipulate your point. The question is, Am I, or any commentator permitted to comment on an interaction of this sort using a later theological and doctrinal vision? Or do I have to go back in a time machine and conclude that the scholar in no way offends because he lived before the later development? In other words, am I allowed to read back into the incident or must I understand it only in historical context? I guess my own experience is that both concepts are OK. We had a similar discussion when the Agape vs. Phileo discussion was had. Your point about 400 year divide makes me think you perfer an historical interpretation.

  6. Very interesting post. I remembered another comment around this story, which went something like this: “The Good Samaritan not only had good intentions, he also had the money to implement them”. Adds another dimension to good works, doesn’t it?

  7. thank you for your wonderful homily Monsignor !

    There is a dimension to this story that relates very well to the book of Isaiah

    “Hear the word of the LORD, princes of Sodom! Listen to the instruction of our God, people of Gomorrah!


    7 What care I for the number of your sacrifices? says the LORD. I have had enough of whole-burnt rams and fat of fatlings; In the blood of calves, lambs and goats I find no pleasure.


    When you come in to visit me, who asks these things of you?


    8 Trample my courts no more! Bring no more worthless offerings; your incense is loathsome to me. New moon and sabbath, calling of assemblies, octaves with wickedness: these I cannot bear.


    Your new moons and festivals I detest; they weigh me down, I tire of the load.


    9 When you spread out your hands, I close my eyes to you; Though you pray the more, I will not listen. Your hands are full of blood!


    Wash yourselves clean! Put away your misdeeds from before my eyes; cease doing evil;


    learn to do good. Make justice your aim: redress the wronged, hear the orphan’s plea, defend the widow.


    Come now, let us set things right, says the LORD: Though your sins be like scarlet, they may become white as snow; Though they be crimson red, they may become white as wool.


    If you are willing, and obey, you shall eat the good things of the land;


    But if you refuse and resist, the sword shall consume you: for the mouth of the LORD has spoken!


  8. Thank goodness I came across this post Msgr. Pope. My priest gave a quasi anti-semitic sermon after the gospel which kind of disgusted me. I was actually starting to have serious doubts. Thank you so much.

  9. I think that another important point is the last line of the Gospel: “Go and do likewise.” What Jesus is saying is OK you understand the law fella, now DO something. As a Secular Franciscan we are called to live the Gospel life. This is a great lesson for us; we must not only understand the Word of God, but do something about it.

  10. The Priest on EWTN in his homily on the Good Samaritan said the good samaritan was God who though Jesus crossed the road, meaning He came to earth in the flesh, the half-dead man is mankind who through the sin of Adam was half dead in sin; the priest and Levite who pass the half dead man represented the old law, and old testament; the samaritan was technically a Jew, but of mixed blood, and not readily accepted by the Jews; Jesus picked up the man and took him to the inn which is the Church, and the inn keeper the Father of the Church; and the payment Jesus made was the actual payment He paid with His body and blood, then Jesus ends the parable with a promise to return.

    1. Good stuff, this helps me with my previous post. Looking forward to giving this some additional thought.

  11. Thank you, Msgr.
    Your reflection was very powerful and calls me to deeper conversion. Blessings on your ministry

  12. Very interesting post. Personally, I have a bad habit of reading the conversations in the bible as shallower than they are (perhaps because the style is different than modern speach/writing), and often miss interactions that tell us the reasons why Christ answers the way He does. And of course, seeing what it was that led Christ to say something helps us to look for that cause in ourselves.

    I am curious if anyone else sees this as supporting the idea that “Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience – those too may achieve eternal salvation.” (from the Catechism).

    Namely, that the Samaritan isn’t just someone who doesn’t typically like Jews or someone that Jews typically don’t like, but someone whose intellectual understanding of religion is wrong yet is moved to do the right thing by grace. Of course, I’m a little hazy on what the actual differences between the Jews and Samaritans were (are?), so it may be that they wouldn’t have disagreed on an issue such as this if they could have been persuaded to talk to each other.

  13. Jacob, I for one, can relate and commiserate with this comment:

    ‘I am curious if anyone else sees this as supporting the idea that “Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience’

    God seems, as of yet, not to have deigned to grant me any great Grace for understanding Scripture. With patience and perseverance, I plunder on. Deo Gratias, I find these discussions, articles and this site of inestimable value. An invaluable source of Great Light.

  14. Dear Monsignor, thank you for discussing the matter with me in your gentle and generous way as always. I sincerely appreciate it. You are currently preaching a retreat, I know, so your freedom to engage in discussion is limited, but I would like to respond to your reply above.

    First, a disclaimer: I am not a biblical scholar or a theologian (and doesn’t “theologian” better than “lawyer” or “legal scholar” [the NAB translation] capture what a nomikós was?), and it is only in settings like this that a lay Catholic gets a meaningful opportunity to discuss a homily with the homilist, so please excuse my pertinacity.

    Next, you misunderstood what I wrote about the theology of grace. What I meant was that the theology on that subject gradually developed over a period of 400 years from St. Paul to St. Augustine. In particular, I had always understood that the doctrine of prevenient grace is Augustinian although rooted in Pauline theology.

    Thirdly, I entirely concur with you in the distinctive function and methods of homiletics, and I agree that every parable can have a range of meanings (or contain more than one lesson), but I have never come across an interpretation such as yours – that the parable (even if only in part) concerns the necessity for grace, and that the nomikós started off on the wrong foot by asking “what must I DO?” (these are separate but interconnected points).

    The great biblical scholar Joachim Jeremias, in his ground-breaking book “The Parables of Jesus” (Eng. trans. 1954), went so far as to suggest (he says it is “the probable explanation” of the question) that the nomikós “had been disturbed in conscience by Jesus’ preaching” and actually cites v.28 in support – which on your account was “probably” tongue-in-cheek. Fr. Karris, in the New Jerome Biblical Commentary [43, 126] wrote (in implicit support of Jeremias’ insight) “It seems that the lawyer has been present to hear what Jesus has just said about Christian mission in 10:1-24”.

    These are very fair points and a useful corrective to the hermeneutic of suspicion of which your account (if you will forgive me saying so) is so extreme a version. Neither NJB nor NAB (“There was a [nomikós] who stood up to test/disconcert him”) quite captures the Greek introduction to the pericope:- kaì idoù vomikós tis anéstē ekpeirádzōn autòn . . which at least leaves it open that this is a continuation of what went before (NIV obliterates the connection by translating “On one occasion”). Although the primary meaning of ekpeirádzō is tempt (cf. Lk.4:12f., and there is no justification for “disconcert” in the NJB), the verb has an innocent meaning of “question” or “test the validity of what has been said”: that is what lawyers, scholars, philosophers, teachers and theologians do.

    Since the nomikós is an expert in the Torah, and Our Lord had had no formal training that anyone knew of, we might have expected him to adopt a supercilious air. The very idea of a nomikós asking such a question of a “layman” is itself unusual, but we should not jump to the conclusion (as I admit I did initially!) that the aim of the question was to trap or make a fool of Him. As I have already suggested, the interrogative passage (Lk.10:25-28) substantially parallels the profoundly moving exchange with the grammateús in Mk.12:28-34.

    It would be wrong to assume that the nomikós had the same malicious attitude as the grammateîs kai oi Pharisaîoi mentioned at Lk.11:53f. (“When he left, the scribes and Pharisees began to act with hostility toward him and to interrogate him about many things, for they were plotting to catch him at something he might say”), later developing into a murderous plot (Lk.19:47, 20:19, 22:2). Nor is there anything tricky in the question of the nomikós, as compared with the one posed by the Sadducees on the after-life of the woman with seven husbands (Lk.20:27-33). Even in that case, the Evangelist acknowledges the fair-mindedness of a section of the questioners:- “Some of the [grammateîs] said in reply, ‘Teacher, you have answered well’.” (Lk.20:39).

    So my challenge (if I may put it like that, but in a respectful way) is for you to accept that there is nothing in the pericope which justifies your reading that the initial question was “flawed” or “absurd”; or
    that the nomikós “looks more and more foolish as the interaction goes on”; or
    “[misunderstood] salvation” – it is evident from v.28 that that is false – “and the absolute necessity for grace” (unless in the sense that everyone, at that time – including the Apostles – had no knowledge of any such teaching); or
    was seeking “to justify himself” in any soteriological sense, for it seems to me that your exposition derives from a fundamental misreading of this phrase in v.29 – the use of the verb dikaióō here (and cf. Lk.7:35, 17:15) has nothing to do with the doctrine of justification by grace, but pertains, rather, to the dialectical setting: as where we might say “he wanted to show it was a justifiable question”.

    1. My main objection to your poistion Bain is not that you have a more benign position on the Scholar but rather that you so unbendingly dismiss mine with your use of the word nothing. In biblical interpretation there is a wide range possible understandings that the Church permits. You seem to get very fixed on certain views and dig in your heels. You are free to do so. As for me, I will and have admitted that I engaged in some hyperbole in taking on this lawyer. Your position I think is far too strident. I have no problem with your view or many other views of this pericope. I just wish you were less adamant and refuting so often and could admit of a little more diversity. You are free to rebut my postion with a different view but I would avoid saying there is “nothing” in my point of view. Now while you want to sidestep the fact that this scholar was trying to “test” or “tempt” Jesus by finding benign interpretation of the opening verb: ἐκπειράζω (test, tempt, prove) I simply don’t agree that it is as benign as you say. Jesus uses this verb him self to rebuke Satan in Mat 4:7 and Luke 4:12. There he rebukes the devil and says “Thou shalt not tempt (test) (ἐκπειράζω) the Lord your God.” I think your trying find more benign translations is fine but Jesus surely doesn’t use it the way you say. What you are expounding is a theory that is respectable but not without challenge.

      All I ask is that you might might admit that there are other possible views. You started out OK saying I went too far and was too harsh. Fine. I admitted hyperbole (a technique of preaching). But as is frequently the case with your post you seem to want to dig in your heels and “win” Why not just admit that there are other possbile readings of this and that you may favor a certain one or another but that does not render other views “nothing”

      So no, I will not accept your challenge that I accept “that there is nothing in the pericope which justifies [my]reading” Neither will I accept that my “exposition derives from a fundamental misreading of this phrase in v.29” or that the pericope “has nothing to do with the doctrine of justification by grace.”

      You are just far too absolutist in your position at this point and I see no need to trash my whole interpretation based on what you have said. You have freely presented another view and have articulated it well. But the biblical interpretation of this passage does not have to be as narrow and unbending as you suggest. I am not sure why this is something you have to “win.” How about we just repsect each other’s views and live to fight another day on something more obviously critical to doctrine. Clearly you don’t see this passage as one that points to justification by grace. Fine but the Church does teach that we are in need of God’s grace to be saved or to do any good work. So, I am not proposing some heresy. Live and let live.

      1. I wasn’t unaware, Monsignor, that the logic of my position was to force you into a corner, which I certainly did not want to do out of any urge to “win”, so I deliberately tried not to come over as strident or aggressive. The word you take such exception to occurs in this sentence: “my challenge (if I may put it like that, but in a respectful way) is for you to accept that there is nothing in the pericope which justifies [etc.]”.

        Now, I quote myself here NOT to win a point, but to show that I tried my level best to put my post as generously and mildly as you always do. If, on the other hand, you are saying there are never any rights and wrongs about biblical exegesis and that any and every point must have something in it, then we must agree to disagree. Far from turning it into a “me” against “you” exchange, my first four paragraphs were, I hope, balanced and fair and admitted some of your points. In my fifth paragraph I presented the arguments of other scholars.

        I claim no originality or expertise for myself, and I sincerely apologise if I have offended you or trespassed upon the hospitality of your blog.

      2. Bain you know I am not saying that there are never any rights and wrongs about biblical exegesis and that any and every point must have something in it. But this point about this pericope is not a case of univocal understanding and does not need to become an endless debate. You have not been as generous and mild as you think and have wanted to insist that you are right and I am wrong. That is not necessary in this case. No one has to win this debate and I would simply invoke your phrase that we agree to disagree and end this. I will not agree that there is “nothing” in in the pericope that justifies my interpretation.

  15. Good day Msgr. and for the wonderful homily. Last Sunday that story happened in my life, i was looking for a good samaritan to help me in the sudden sickness of my husband that i needed to bring him to a hospital, but being poor, no money to pay for the hospital bill, food to eat during our stay in the emergency room, i used that topic to a relative. After explaining my situation and sharing with her about the homily i put a simple word …i am looking for a good “jew” not a samaritan and told her that the Lord maybe just showed it in a different manner that the one who helped was a person not in his group of faith as a “jew” but rather on a different group. I wished for more jew to show mercy and share their graces to one in need. God is great and good, full of mercy and love because He answered my prayers. We are out of the hospital now but still looking and praying for the much needed medicine assistance to cure the congested lungs and possible heart failure. God bless everyone and thank you again monsignor Pope. God loves us always.

  16. Was listening 2 a preacher today deliberating on the parable of the good samaritan and i just had 2 look it through to get other’s views. Somethan dat he pointed out was dat the priest ,levite and the atackd man were walking ‘down’ from Jerusalem to Jericho. Note dat down her symbolises loss of grace hence the men backsliding.

  17. Dear Fr how can we see the financal and spiritual aspect of mercy in this parable I read the categories of mercy by matt on internet but found difficult to understand these two points. He says there are four categories of mercy
    Advocacy, Assistance, Finances and Spiritual. Can you kindly give your understanding or perspective on these two.

  18. As this Gospel reading is again before us this week, I encountered your post. And I would not even accuse you of hyperbole. The lawyer was manifestly trying to test Christ; the topic was soteriological (“inherit eternal life”), and he wanted to be self-justified. It’s all in the text.

    The Patristic interpretations all took the Samaritan to be Christ (“all” — perhaps I have engaged in a slight hyperbole, or perhaps not) — and the point is, if you want to self-justify, then be the perfect Christ (“go and do likewise”). Which, to think one can do/be, is the height of self-deceived self-righteousness.

    I guess with your and my relative positions it might come off as presumptuous (just as might appear to us when the scribe said the same to Jesus, Mark 12:32), but let me say simply: “Well said, teacher. You are right.”

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