Monday, October 09, 2006

27th Monday in Ordinary Time (II)
Receiving Good News

Readings: Galations 1:6-12; Psalm 111:1b-2, 7-8, 9 and 10c; Luke 10:25-37

Go, and do the same yourself. How do we hear these words of Jesus in the gospel today? We know the story well. We know it challenges us to imitate the compassion and self-sacrificing love of the Good Samaritan. But how do we feel when we hear this? Does it really feel like the Good News of Christ that Paul speaks about in the first reading? We probably know what it’s like to receive good news. It feels great! There’s joy, relief, consolation, a lifting of burdens, a loosening of tensions. We live for good news! Does hearing Jesus’ words evoke this same feeling in us? Or do we experience the opposite reaction instead? Do we instead experience the heart-sinking feeling of being imposed upon, of being asked to do something beyond us? Much depends upon how we hear.

We might, for example, hear Jesus’ words the way a child hears the words of her parents when she obtains results that are above average but not quite the best. The parents might respond by singing the praises of the one who came in first and telling the child, Go, and do the same yourself. Is the child likely to hear these words as good news? If we were to think of the Samaritan in much the same way as the child might think of the one who came in first, and if we were to think of Jesus’ words as pushing us to imitate the Samaritan’s good example, are we likely to feel like we are receiving good news?

Thankfully, there is another way of hearing this story. It begins not so much by asking, what must I do, but by first identifying with the one who fell into the hands of brigands. I am that person left for dead. I'm weak and helpless. In spite of my considerable capabilities and talents, I lie on the road of life powerless to save myself from a vain existence. And along comes the Samaritan who is Christ the Lord. He goes out of his way to help me, even at great cost to himself. Is this not good news? And will hearing the parable in this way not also influence the way in which I then hear Jesus’ words, Go, and do the same yourself? The words are the same. But the feeling is different. And the difference is crucial.

Indeed it’s not always easy to receive good news. And this is especially so with the Good News of Christ. What is not easy is for us to acknowledge and embrace the poverty of our human condition, our need for the Good Samaritan’s help, our total dependence on the Lord who keeps his covenant ever in mind.

How are we being invited to hear the Good News of Christ today?

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