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This Week has been a Tough Week for us in America

Homily for the 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time | by Friar Nader Ata, OFM Conv., Deacon



This week has been a tough week for us in America between the shooting of Alton Sterling in Louisiana and Philando Castile in Minnesota and then the shooting of five Dallas officers Lorne Ahren, Michael Krol, Michael J. Smith, Brent Thompson, and Patrick Zamarripa. I mention each of them by name because they are more than victims of violence, they are human beings, they are our brothers. Our hearts are broken, our nation is in division, and too many lives have been taken. 

Today in the Gospel we hear the story of the Good Samaritan, one of the most well known Gospel stories that we have. The journey between Jerusalem and Jericho is about 23 miles downhill. The road is very steep and winding, which makes it an ideal place for road thieves to assault and rob travelers. The man in the parable was the unfortunate victim of such thieves who stripped and beat him, leaving him half-dead.  According to the parable it seems that the priest and the Levite did nothing and walked by. Perhaps they thought he was dead, in which case they were reluctant to touch him because it would render them ritually unclean. And it is possible that the priest and Levite looked over at that man on the ground and wondered if the robbers were still around.  We do not know their exact motives for not stopping to help the man; all we know is that they didn’t. But there is one who did, a Samaritan, a religious and social outcast, one who is ritually unclean in Jewish eyes – an enemy to the Jews. It is he who befriends and provides for the dying man.

One commentary, mentioned that the best possible explanation she heard for the refusal of the priest and the Levite to come to the aid of the man in the ditch, comes from Martin Luther King Jr. who preached “…the first question that the priest asked, the first question that the Levite asked was ‘If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?’ But then the Good Samaritan came by, and reversed the question: ‘If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?’ ” – end quote.  It seems that the thought process of the priest and the Levite was about them – while the thought process of the Samaritan was about the other.

I went and found the sermon that this explanation of the Good Samaritan story came from. And I was moved to tears. The sermon by Martin Luther King Jr. then, describes in a way what our nation is like now. I quote – “the world is all messed up. The nation is sick, trouble is in the land, confusion all around. That’s a strange statement. But I know, somehow, that only when it is dark enough you can see the stars.” – end quote.  In another paragraph he says quote – “It is no longer a choice between violence and nonviolence in this world; it’s nonviolence or nonexistence. That is where we are today. And also, in the human rights revolution, if something isn’t done and done in a hurry to bring the colored peoples of the world out of their long years of poverty; their long years of hurt and neglect, the whole world is doomed.”

Martin Luther King Jr. says later in the sermon “Now what does all this mean to this great period of history? It means that we’ve got to stay together. We’ve got to stay together and maintain unity. You know whenever Pharaoh wanted to prolong the period of slavery in Egypt, he had a favorite, favorite formula for doing it. What was it? He kept the slaves fighting among themselves. But whenever the slaves get together, something happens in Pharaoh’s court, and he cannot hold the slaves in slavery. When the slaves get together, that’s the beginning of getting out of slavery. Now let us maintain unity.” – end quote.

And lastly at the end of his sermon, he says quote “ Well, I don’t know what will happen now; we’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter to me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind….I’ve looked over, and I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land.” – end quote. This sermon was given on April 3, 1968. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated the next day.

We’ve got some difficult days and weeks and months ahead – you and I have got to stay together. We’ve got to stay together and maintain unity. We must stand up to say that black lives matter, that blue lives matter, that all lives matter. We have to go be like that Samaritan in the Gospel and pick up wounded man on the road, attend to his wounds, and walk with him. There are many people who are wounded and need others to attend to their wounds.  Maybe you are called to attend to the wounds of others even your enemies.  Maybe you are the one who is wounded and needs to be attended to by others even your enemies.

There is no love of God that does not express itself in love of neighbor. When we ask the question, who is my neighbor? it is like asking who should I love? The answer is everyone: people of any color or race, religion or social status, gender or sexual orientation.  And when we ask the question, who acts as a neighbor? it is like asking, who shows love? Hopefully the answer to that question is us – may we be the ones who act as a neighbor, may we be the ones who show love. May we be nonviolent stars in the darkness of our nation today. 

Friar Nader Ata, OFM Conv.,