Sunday, July 10, 2016

Christ is the Good Samaritan, The mystical interpretation of Sunday's Gospel

15th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C
Luke 10:25-37

A man fell victim to robbers as he went down from Jerusalem to Jericho.

The moral of the Parable of the Good Samaritan (which is true history insofar as it relates events common to that time and place) is readily apparent to all – we are not meant to search out reasons why we shouldn’t help someone in need, but rather we out to look for every excuse to reach out and give succor to the desperate.

The Fathers of the Church, together with the great Catholic theologians, go further and read this passage in the mystical sense – recognizing the fall of man, his redemption in Christ, the establishment of the Church, and the prediction of the Second Coming. We rely especially on the Catena Aurea of St Thomas Aquinas and the Great Commentary of Fr. Cornelius a Lapide.

We will comment upon this passage, placing the words of Scripture in bold italics and the commentary below each portion of the text.

A man fell victim to robbers as he went down from Jerusalem to Jericho.

This man represents Adam, or all of humanity, who abandoned the state of original grace (Jerusalem) and gave himself over to love of the low things of earth (Jericho). Again, Jerusalem represents Eden, and Jericho represents the world.

The robbers are demons and the devil himself, who attack man in his journey through life. When a man gives into the temptations of the devil, he is said to fall victim to him.

They stripped and beat him and went off leaving him half-dead.

Man is stripped of the state of grace when he falls victim to temptation and commits sin. He is beaten and wounded by the devil insofar as his will is weakened and he is made a slave of sin.

The sinner is left half-dead insofar as his soul is now “dead” as having lost the supernatural life of the state of grace, while the body yet retains natural life. The greater half of man (his soul) is dead, while the lower half (the body) lives – so long as life remains in the body, there is yet hope for his conversion.

A priest happened to be going down that road […] likewise a Levite came to the place.

The priest represents Moses and Aaron, that is the Law. While the Levite signifies the prophets. Neither the Law nor the prophets could bring salvation to the human race – but the Law was given not to heal sin, but rather to convict man of sin. Thus, the priest and the Levite  passed by on the opposite side of the road to indicate the sin present in the world, but they had no power to cure sin or restore grace.

But a Samaritan traveler who came upon him was moved with compassion at the sight.

The Samaritan traveler is Christ, who likewise came down insofar as he descended from heaven to be one with us. He is a traveler, as he descended from heaven and would ascend again to heaven – not making his true home to be upon the earth. Christ was moved with compassion even has he had pity on the people who were like sheep without a shepherd, who were wounded and had no physician.

Jesus looked upon the human race wounded and half-dead (that is, devoid of grace) and, seeing that there was nothing in man to merit salvation and that man had done and could do nothing to deserve to be restored to grace, he was moved with compassion at the sight and desired to heal us not because of any preexisting good in ourselves, but from the abundance of his mercy and compassion.

He approached the victim, poured oil and wine over his wounds and bandaged them.

Binding wounds indicates the checking of sins, wine symbolizes the sharpness of contrition, and oil is the gentleness of mercy. Wine washes away what has been corrupted, oil strengthens what is good.

Then he lifted him up on his own animal

The animal represents the flesh of our Savior which bore up sinful man. To be placed upon the Samaritan’s animal is to believe in the incarnation of the Lord. Even as the good shepherd carries the lost sheep upon his shoulders, the Samaritan places the wounded man upon his animal – and Jesus bore our sins upon his own body, carrying us upon or within his Sacred Heart.

took him to an inn, and cared for him.

The inn is the Church, to whom Christ has entrusted all whom he has forgiven. Do we not see that the encounter with Christ necessarily brings man to communion with his Church?

The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper with the instruction, ‘Take care of him.

The two silver coins are the commandments of love of God and love of neighbor, or the sacramental life (particularly baptism and the Eucharist).

The innkeeper is the Pope and the pastors of the Church, to whom Christ has entrusted the sheep he has redeemed. We recognize the duty of pastors to care for the souls placed under their care – lest the one who has been saved by Christ should again fall prey to robbers and be wounded anew.

If you spend more than what I have given you, I shall repay you on my way back.’

The Lord will return again on the Day of Judgment, in his Second Coming. When Jesus does return to judge the living and the dead, the faithful servant will receive his reward for all his labors in the vineyard of the Lord.

Father Cornelius a Lapide quotes Origen on this passage:

“A certain preacher thus interprets the parable. The man who went down from Jerusalem is Adam: Jerusalem is Paradise, Jericho the world. The thieves are the powers which are against us. The priest is the law, the Levite, the prophets. The Samaritan is Christ. The beast whereon he sat, the body of the Lord, i.e. His humanity. The inn the Church. By the two pieces of money we may understand the Father and the Son, and by the host, the head of the Church, him to whom governance is committed. The return of the Samaritan is the second coming of the Lord.”


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thefederalist said...

The Old Testament reading for the Office of Readings for the 15th Sunday in ordinary time is from 1 Kings and reminds us that Jericho was a city cursed by Joshua at its fall and rebuilt in the time of King Ahab at the cost of two of the sons of the man who rebuilt it, as Joshua had prophesied. This parable is the only one recorded in the Gospels that Jesus locates in a specific place, thus suggesting that the place names should be taken in a symbolic sense.

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