Jesus was always teaching, wasn’t He? And like any good teacher, He was always being questioned.
Even as a child, as a twelve-year-old in the Temple, Jesus answers the questions of the wise. Luke tells us that “all who heard him were astounded at his understanding and his answers” [Lk 2:47].
And the questions continued right up to that final barrage of questions Jesus received from Pilate, as He stood before him facing death.
Yes, even Pilate, the upper-class Roman who no doubt considered the Jews little more than rabble – even Pilate sought answers from this Jesus, this teacher whom he would soon judge under man's law.
“Are you the King of the Jews?” [Jn 18:33]
“Where are you from?” [Jn 19:9]
“Do you not you know that I have…power to crucify you?” [Jn 19:10]
And of course that sneering question from Pilate: “What is truth?” [Jn 18:38]
Pilate should have asked, “Who is truth?”, because he was in the presence of the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
Yes, almost everyone Jesus met asked Him questions. It’s as if, somehow, they all knew, if only subconsciously, who He really was. Those He encountered seemed to sense He was more than just a teacher.
What did the centurion say as he stood at the foot of the Cross?
“Truly this was the Son of God” [Mt 27:54].In today’s passage from Luke, Jesus is again asked a question: "Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" [Lk 10:25]
Jesus didn’t need to invent an answer, for the answer was already there in the Word of God. And so He answered with a question of His own: “What is written in the Law? [Lk 10:26]
The scholar responded correctly, didn’t he? He simply went to Scripture:
“You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself” [Lk 10:27].You see, it’s not necessary to be a scholar to know God and what He expects of us. Indeed, just moments before Jesus had prayed to the Father:
“I give you praise, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike.” [Lk 10:21]But not being very childlike, the scholar, hoping not so much to learn as to justify himself, asks Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” With that Jesus offers us a gift, the Parable of the Good Samaritan, a parable both scholar and childlike can understand:
“A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho...” [Lk 10:30]But what exactly did the Samaritan do? After all, he was a Samaritan, despised by the Jews and thought to be outside the Law. And yet, did he not listen to God’s Word? Did he not obey the Law? Well, at the very least, it seems he listened to his conscience and acted righteously. And this set him on the path to eternal life.
Remember that original question: “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” [Lk 10:25] This is what Jesus' answer is all about.
Yes, there were three who encountered the wounded man on the road, weren’t there? But only one of the three did anything to help. How did Jesus put it? “Many are called but few are chosen” [Mt 22:14]
And so today, let’s reflect on our own lives. Who are the wounded you and I encounter? Those who are physically wounded? Or mentally wounded? Or spiritually wounded? Do we even recognize them in the busyness of our lives? Or perhaps we do see them, but turn away, preferring not to be bothered. Anyway, someone else will take care of them.
Is that how we hope to inherit eternal life? As Christians we should know better. To inherit eternal life, we must come to know God, to know Him as the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
But this knowing of God is knowledge of love. As John reminds us: to know the Truth that is God is to know God, who "is Love" [1 Jn. 4:16]. It always comes back to Love, doesn’t it? To love the Lord your God with all your being, and to love your neighbor as yourself. How did Mother Teresa put it? "If you judge people, you have no time to love them."
Yes, indeed, we spend so much time judging others, and so little time loving them. St. James reminded us all of this when he wrote that "mercy triumphs over judgment" [Jas 2:13].
As we look forward to the Year of Mercy declared by Pope Francis, let's make an effort as individuals and as a parish to replace self-absorption with a love for others, to replace judgment with mercy.