Sermon by Fr Nicholas Karipoff
Luke 10: 25 – 37 The Good Samaritan
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit
In today’s reading, the lawyer, a specialist in the law of Moses, asked Jesus Christ how one can obtain eternal life. He had heard about Christ’s teaching, and he correctly answered the question about the Law posed to him by Christ - that the Law, the way to eternal life, is about love of God and love of our neighbour. However, what the lawyer did not understand was the nature of love. What is love? Therefore, he asked, ‘Who is my neighbour?’ In other words, who is worthy to be loved by me? Who is worthy of my love?
In response, the Lord tells a very moving story, the Parable of the Good Samaritan. Christ is the Good Samaritan. Those Jews who did not believe in Him despised Samaritans. Galilee was just north of Samaria, so they called him a Samaritan as an insult. Christ uses the word differently. He’s the Good Samaritan who came to heal us – who are the half-dead descendants of Adam – in a spiritual sense. The parable, however, answers the lawyer’s questions in a very unexpected way. Rather than explaining to us. together with the lawyer, who our neighbour is, Christ describes how to become a neighbour to everybody. Or, at the very least, how to become a neighbour to those people in need of healing who God sends to us. Yes, it begins with those who speak directly to our conscience. And where does it end?
The saints, as we find out from their lives and their writings, were able to encompass the whole world with their love, with their prayer. Oh, how the world today needs this sort of love, this sort of prayer, and the healing that it brings! Now patristic exegesis – which means interpretation of scripture – the exegesis of this parable tells us of the man descending from Jerusalem to Jericho. Anyone who’s been to the Holy Land knows that Jerusalem is up in the high hills, in a mountainous area, and Jericho is in the lowest depression on earth, 400m below sea level. It is a very steep descent between the two, over a short distance. The man who is walking from Jerusalem to Jericho represents the spiritual descent, on the way from closeness to God to disconnect from Him. The man is beaten up, just as the whole of humanity is beaten up by the demons. This happens historically, whenever there is this spiritual descent taking humanity from the high spiritual state of Jerusalem to the low spiritual state represented by Jericho.
I would venture to say that apart from Noah’s day, there has never been a time in spiritual terms as low as the times we are living in today. Humanity is so badly beaten up with the current crisis. According to the Holy Fathers, the priest and the Levite who walked past the man, lying beaten up on the road, represent the law. The law was unable to heal humanity. The Good Samaritan, Christ, had to come. The law and its righteousness was futile and empty. The modern world has also developed its own ideology that is full of religious fervour. But the righteousness of today’s law also cannot heal humanity. The Church is represented by the inn in the parable, to which the Good Samaritan took the beaten-up man. Can the church continue to care for humanity? Can it continue its healing work? Perhaps the invisible bandits have now turned on the church to give up humanity, to give up this beaten-up man, to destroy him completely. Perhaps it is time for the Good Samaritan to come back as he promised the innkeeper, Look after him until I come back. That’s of course, the Second Coming.
These are questions not only for our time. The Church in the early centuries was faced with the same questions. During the first and second centuries, and into the third century, it could not see a future for the world. The Church could not see any future for the world. And it was looking forward to Christ’s Coming. Yea Come O Lord Jesus. That was the feeling within the Church. And yet, the Church then overcame the world, just as Christ said to his disciples at the Mystical Supper; that in the world you will have sorrows but be of good cheer. Be daring. For I have vanquished, defeated, the world. And the Church then defeated the world, and the world came to the Church. The iron empire of the Romans became, well at least externally, a Christian empire. It could happen again if we truly want it to happen. It can only happen, however, if the Church - the physician - heals itself. Let’s seriously seek healing from the Good Samaritan. He can do it! Amen.