The Church: Divine Pity's Inn

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V-Gogh-el-buen-samaritano.jpg

Fifteenth Sunday of the Year C

Deuteronomy 30:10-14
Psalm 68: 14 and 17, 30-31, 36ab and 37 (R. cf. 33)
Colossians 1:15-20
Luke 10:25–37

A Hidden Meaning

Today’s Gospel, the parable of the Good Samaritan, is familiar to us. It is, perhaps, too familiar. That is often our problem. We assume that we have grasped the message of a Gospel because we have heard it so many times when, in fact, its message may not yet have grasped our hearts. The Fathers of the Church discerned a mystery — a hidden meaning — in the story of the Good Samaritan: the mystery of the healing mercy of God revealed in Christ.

The Divine Pity

The Good Samaritan is none other than Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself. In Christian art through the centuries, the figure of the Good Samaritan is often depicted as the merciful Jesus. In the days of His flesh, as He journeyed in this world, Christ came to where we were (cf, Lk 10:33). And when He saw all of us, sinners, stripped, and beaten, and left for dead in a ditch, He had compassion (cf. Lk 10:33). The human Heart of God, the Sacred Heart, was moved. God, looking upon us through the eyes of His Christ, was moved to pity at the sight of our suffering.

Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy

The practical demands of today’s Gospel are clear. It summons each of us to the spiritual and corporal works of mercy enumerated in the Catechism:

— to admonish the sinner,
— to instruct the ignorant,
— to counsel the doubtful,
— to comfort the sorrowful,
— to bear wrongs patiently,
— to forgive all injuries,
— and to pray for the living and the dead.

— to feed the hungry,
— to give drink to the thirsty,
— to clothe the naked,
— to ransom the captive,
— to harbor the harborless,
— to visit the sick,
— and to bury the dead.

None of these things can be dismissed. No one of us is excused from the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. Our Lord said to Saint Faustina: “I demand of you deeds of mercy, which are to arise out of love for me. You are to show mercy to your neighbours always and everywhere. You must not shrink from this or try to excuse or absolve yourself from it.” This being affirmed, there is, I think, much more to the parable of the Good Samaritan.

Samaritan or Traveler?

Most of us, when we meditate today’s Gospel, prefer to cast ourselves in the role of the Samaritan rather than in that of the traveler who was robbed, stripped, forsaken, and left half-dead. The Samaritan is the hero. The Samaritan comes out of the story as a shining example, and rightly so. The Samaritan is splendid. Who among us does not, at least sometimes, want to be splendid?

Wanting to Be Splendid

Churches are full of people who want to be splendid. We needed the teaching of a twenty–four year old Doctor of the Church to see that holiness is not about being splendid at all. Saint Thérèse tells that holiness is, rather, about accepting that we have landed in the gutter, that we are, in fact, without resources, stripped, wounded, half-dead, and utterly incapable of changing any of that by ourselves.

The God who bends over our souls with a face of indescribable tenderness, the God who pours oil and wine into our wounds, the God who binds them up with the strong and gentle hands of His mercy, meets us not in the high places of our virtue, not in Jerusalem, nor in Jericho, nor on the road of a splendid spiritual progress, but in the gutter of our absolute need of Him.

The Nearness of the Merciful Christ

In the figure of the Samaritan, the Fathers of the Church discern the face, the heart, and the hands of Christ. Christ stops for us. He comes near us in our poverty, near us in our nakedness. He does not ignore us like the priest who, seeing the wounded traveler, passed him by. He does not hasten by as did the Levite. Saint Luke emphasizes that the Samaritan stopped and went right over to the traveler. “But a certain Samaritan being on his journey, came near him” (Lk 10:33). And in the lesson from Deuteronomy we heard: “The Word is very nigh unto thee” (Dt 30:14). This was the mission of the Word Made Flesh: to come very nigh unto us in our misery, and to reveal to us the merciful condescension of God.

The merciful Jesus is nearer to us when we are broken and humiliated than we when we are splendid and marching on. “A Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was; and when he saw him, he had compassion” (Lk 10:33).

Into the Inn of the Father’s Hospitality

The merciful Jesus stops for each of us; He binds up our wounds, pouring oil and wine upon them, cleansing and disinfecting them, healing them with the medicines of His Holy Spirit and of His Precious Blood. Christ lifts us up from where he finds us. He brings us to the inn of His Father’s hospitality: His Church, One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic. There He cares for us, and pays all our expenses.

Ecclesia de Eucharistia

Some people were shocked this past week when they read the newspaper accounts of the clarification issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on what we mean when we speak of the Catholic Church. There was nothing new in the statement. It simply reiterated something that needs to be repeated in the current context of relativism and false ecumenism. The Church is born of the Eucharist; without a valid priesthood conferred by Apostolic Succession, there is no Eucharist, and therefore, there is no Church.

The document, speaking of Protestant communities, said: “According to Catholic doctrine, these Communities do not enjoy apostolic succession in the sacrament of Orders, and are, therefore, deprived of a constitutive element of the Church. These ecclesial Communities which, specifically because of the absence of the sacramental priesthood, have not preserved the genuine and integral substance of the Eucharistic Mystery cannot, according to Catholic doctrine, be called Churches in the proper sense.”

The venerable Oriental Churches separated from full communion with the Catholic Church, because they have true Apostolic Succession and the mystery of the Holy Eucharist, contain all the elements of truth and grace given in the adorable Body and Blood of Christ. The one thing lacking is communion with the visible head of the Church of Christ, the successor of Peter.

Protestant Disintegration

Protestants, on the other hand, not having the priesthood and the Eucharist, are deprived of the principle source of sanctification and truth. The Church comes out of the Eucharist, and the Church is held together by the Eucharist. The consequences of this can readily be observed. Father Dwight Longknecker, himself a convert to the Catholic Church, wrote this past week:

Everyone needs to take a serious look at the formal situation in the mainstream Protestant churches. I can speak from experience in the Church of England, but I believe the other mainstream Protestant churches in Europe and the USA are in the same situation: their theologians and bishops have formally, in writing denied practically every cardinal Christian doctrine. They deny miracles, the bodily resurrection, the inspiration of Scripture, the Virgin Birth, the incarnation, efficacy of sacraments etc. etc. etc. In the area of morality they allow abortion, divorce and remarriage, cohabitation, homosexuality, transgendered clergy, etc etc etc. Notice, these are not just aberrations of individuals, but formally defined positions of the leadership of these churches.

The Inn of the Parable

How exactly does this clarification relate to the parable of the Good Samaritan? The one true Church founded by Christ as a visible and spiritual community, governed by the successors of Peter and the Bishops in communion with him is that inn wherein the fullness of the Divine Hospitality is found and experienced in the sacraments. Non-Catholics are not deprived of certain elements of sanctification and truth, but they do not possess the fullness of grace and truth, which has been entrusted to the Catholic Church alone. The desire of the merciful Christ is that every human being should find in the inn of the Catholic Church born of His pierced side the fullness of grace and of truth, the forgiveness of sins, the most efficacious means of healing.

Christ, the Human Face of God

When the poor traveler awoke in the inn, and opened his eyes to see who had paid for his care, he beheld the human Face of God. This is the Face we behold when we, children of the Catholic Church, open the eyes of our soul to see who has paid for all that we are given in her sacraments. In the end, it is the experience of this Face that changes us. It is in the closeness of this Face to ours, with “his eyes in our eyes,” and with the warmth of his breath upon us, that we are resurrected to newness of life and sent back to the road whence we came, to “go and do likewise” (Lk 10:37).

1 Comments

Father, What a lovely meditation. I have never heard the parable interpreted in this way. It's beautiful. As I thought about it overnight, I wondered what the priest and Levite who passed by might represent. Some things come to mind as possibilities, but I wonder what - if anything - the Church Fathers might have said about them.

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About Dom Mark

Dom Mark Daniel Kirby is Conventual Prior of Silverstream Priory in Stamullen, County Meath, Ireland. The ecclesial mandate of his Benedictine community is the adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar in a spirit of reparation, and in intercession for the sanctification of priests.

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