Neighbor

Lk.10:25-37

The story of the Good Samaritan was told by Jesus in response to the lawyer, who asked the question, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Now lawyers have tended to get a bum rap throughout history. Occasionally I have lunch with my lawyer, Paul Johnson. I1ll greet him with, “Have you sued anyone today?” That is meant in jest, but apparently it really irritated Paul because he started to reply, “Have you saved any souls today?” Good reply. Paul brought me up short by reminding me that the mission of the Church is to save souls, or as the other lawyer said, “to inherit eternal life.”

Now I want to tell you a story. My father-in-law, also a Paul, died in l975. I liked him a lot. He was a gnarly old Irishman who had grown up in Hartford around the turn of the century. He used to deliver milk from horseback as a boy. Later he worked in insurance for “the two Hartfords.” He could remember when the factories posted signs in the windows, “Irish need not apply.” He was a good Democrat, Irishman and Catholic. Much to the chagrin of his wife and daughters, Paul was also intolerant of Blacks. He hired Blacks, worked with Blacks and had Black friends. Even so sadly he was a bigot. Because of hard living Paul suffered from emphysema and much of his latter years were spent battling lung infections.

One cold, dark and rainy November night Paul decided he needed a widget. So he drove out to Sears at Corbin1s Corners. On the way back his car stalled and died. He got out and tinkered under the hood, getting soaked. Nothing worked. So he got back in the car. Another car pulled up behind him. A big Black man came up to Paul1s window and said, “Can I help you?” “Car won1t start,” Paul said. “Pop the hood,” replied the Black. They both fiddled with the carburetor. Nothing worked. “You are soaked,” said the Black. “Get in my car.” Reluctantly Paul got in the man1s car. “I1ll take you up to the gas station and arrange for someone to come back and get your car,” volunteered the stranger. After they did that, the Black said, “You are shivering. Wrap this blanket around you. Where do you live? I1ll take you home.”

Back at the homestead my mother-in-law and her daughters worried where my father-in-law was. Suddenly there was a knock on the door. They opened it. Standing there was a tall Black man with my father-in-law in his arms. “This man is very sick,” he said. The Black came in, deposited Paul in a rocking chair, and said, “His car stalled. He should go right to bed.” The stranger turned around and left.

Ten days later the man called and asked if Paul was all right! My mother-in-law never got the name of the stranger.

Some Early Church Fathers in their interpretation of the story of The Good Samaritan suggest that the man who fell among thieves was the Church and the Good Samaritan, the one who showed mercy, was Jesus. Perhaps they were right. I don1t know.

What I do know is that it is by God1s grace in Jesus Christ then and now that we receive help, are able to do good and our souls are saved. Amen.