Today's Wisdom

Those who do not pass from the experience of the cross to the truth of the resurrection condemn themselves to despair! For we cannot encounter God without first crucifying our narrow notions of a god who reflects only our own understanding of omnipotence and power
Pope Francis

Friday, January 25, 2013

A Reflection on the Good Samaritan

Christ gave us the powerful Parable of the Good Samaritan. Why is it powerful? Why are his words extraordinary? If we wish to understand the context of the Parable, we must take into consideration a few facts. Going to Luke 10, we read "And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, 'Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?' He said to him, 'What is written in the law? How do you read?'And he answered, 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.' And he said to him, 'You have answered right; do this, and you will live' But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, 'And who is my neighbor?' Jesus replied, 'A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him, and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was; and when he saw him, he had compassion, and went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; then he set him on his own beast and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, `Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.'  'Which of these three, do you think, proved neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?' He said, 'The one who showed mercy on him." And Jesus said to him, 'Go and do likewise.'" (Luke 10: 25-37).

St. Augustine gave us an interpretation which you can read here. Augustine interpreted the parable allegorically in terms of the providential salvation plan in which the robbed man represents Adam and his offspring, the robbers represent Satan and his angels who wounded the man and left him half dead, Christ is the Samaritan who saves man from his fall and eternal death and the Church is the hotel that ministers to man in her teachings and the sacraments received from Christ thus opening the gates of heaven. Through Christ, the fear of hell was changed to the hope in heaven...

But why does Christ use a Samaritan as an example to teach the Jews? The Samaritans were for long considered enemies of the Jews since, according to Jewish tradition, the Samaritans accepted the Pagan deities after the Babylonian conquest of the Holy Land. Now we can appreciate the contrast intended by Christ.

Back to the parable, we note in the sacred text how the lawyer puts Christ to the test and the way of Christ answering a question with a question like the teachers of Israel. In an article in Al-Macarrat, December 2010, Mona Ebeid, PhD., speaks of Luke's three-dimensions structure of the above parable. For Jews, she writes, the Samaritan was considered a man who is: 1. stranger; 2.  heretic (not in the right faith); 3. harmful. This is why mentioning a Samaritan for a Jew was considered an insult. The parable starts with a three-pronged criminal act: 1. The robbers strip the man; 2. They beat him; 3. They leave him half-dead. The next section shows three persons who happen to see the mortally wounded man by coincidence: 1. A priest; 2. A Levite; 3. A Samaritan.  Yet, in a very strong reaction, the priest and levite both escape the man fearing that they would become impure if they touch him. They take the opposite road while when a travelling Samaritan "saw him  he had compassion." Luke explains in three steps how the Samaritan treated the wounded man with compassion:  Not knowing the identity of the wounded man, the Samaritan first of all: 1. went to him; 2. bound up his wounds; 3. poured oil and wine on his wounds as a medicine. Second: 1. set this patient on his own beast; 2. took him to an inn; 3. took care of the stranger patient staying over night with him. And third, on the next day, he  took out two denarii; 2. gave them to the innkeeper; 3. asked the innkeeper to take care of this patient until he comes back. The Samaritan promised to pay whatever more money the innkeeper would have to spend.

At the end, Jesus returns back the question, like a rabbi, with a deeper question to the lawyer who knows the Law! Which of these three proved neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?'And the lawyer ignores the word Samaritan again fearing for contradicting the rules of division of Jews against non-Jews. The lawyer only answers with the ambiguous words  'The one who showed mercy on him.' And Jesus respecting the lawyer's fear said to him, 'Go and do likewise' and did not condemn him.

Since we all are on a journey in this life, the entire parable is about risking myself to save another who is in need. The road from Jerusalem to Jericho is a "road of blood." I cannot travel it alone! I need the others and they also need me. I see people who risk their savings to win a lottery or invest in the stock market, but how many risk their savings to help build the lives of others or to help others who are addicted to sexual pleasure or those addicted to drugs? Building churches is secondary to building the community of families. Everyone in this world needs to reassess his priorities to contribute in saving people he knows. A good example is "Physicians without borders" - an international organization of doctors who volunteer to save people caught in tragic wars.  

I am of the opinion that Jesus reverses the entire priority of loving God first then loving your neighbor; for God is here in this neighbor. Second, it is clear that the Samaritan, the enemy, is closer to God than the practicing Jew of his time or any one who claims to be close to God. The teaching of Christ "Love your enemies" makes sense now; for true Christians have no enemy. A true Christian loves everyone as he loves himself. By loving himself in the proper way he goes out of himself (exit) and there he finds the other - every other whom he meets anywhere he happens to be. And he loves the other as much as he has loved himself. Only then he discovers God who loved all humans created in his image since the beginning. A true
Christian, unlike us or me, does not condemn anyone and does not judge anyone. A true Christian would not hate Muslims or Jews or Hindus or atheists. He only hates evil. In fact this is what I think the Second Vatican Council taught; for we always are in need of repentance and reconciliation; and the Church always needs reform from within. Christians need to love each other so that they may attain the full unity they seek and then they can testify to Christ as one body. This is what the master taught!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Why Information Technology is Important

I started recently giving courses in information systems. The development of information systems is a global phenomenon. Almost all publications in the Western world have now a virtual version that reaches out to researchers as well as to the average reader. The cost of publishing online has decreased in the past decade while publishing hard copies has become less popular. is a leading example of online marketing and sales of books, DVDs, computers, and other technology items.

Today's Quote

"Behold I make all things new." (Revelation 21:5)


See Links to Websites Below