Bearing the story of our redemption in mind, we turn to the Gospel story of the Good Samaritan.
A lawyer stood up to tempt the Lord with the question, “what must I do to possess eternal life?” It is insinuated from the passage that the lawyer already knew full well what the answer would be. Our Blessed Lord, indeed, invites him to give answer to his own question, which he does. “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind: and thy neighbor as thyself.” The real point of the lawyers tempting, however, was the question: “And who is my neighbor?”
It appears this was a celebrated controversy among the doctors of the law; some probably affirming, that the Jews only were so; while others maintained that their friends alone were their neighbors. Our Blessed Lord’s answer was meant to categorize Him, to place Him in a theological camp. However, Our Blessed Lord can not be bottled up so easily. With this in mind, we approach the story of the Good Samaritan. Jesus couldn’t be pigeon holed into one or another camp, because He was announcing a completely new way that supersedes all that came before.
On the surface, the story demonstrates that anyone who has need of our assistance is our neighbor, and at the same time it demonstrates the hypocrisy of the Levite and the priest. The Jewish priests were scrupulously observant in all the externals of their religion, but neglected mercy, piety and the duties incumbent due to the spirit of their religion. St. Paul reminds us today, “not in the letter but in the spirit, for the letter killeth, but the spirit quickeneth.” Religious duties can not be reduced to outward practice alone. Our outward practices must overflow from a sincere piety.
However, there is a deeper meaning to the story of the Good Samaritan—a meaning that answers the tempting question of the lawyer by revealing a new way that transcended the squabbling of the lawyers and Pharisees. The great Fathers of the Church, Origen, St. Jerome, St. Ambrose, and St. Augustine all explained this deeper symbolic meaning. The man that fell among robbers represents Adam and his posterity. Jerusalem represents peace and innocence, and Jericho a place of trouble and sin. The robbers represent the devil and his demons, which stripped Adam of his supernatural gifts, and wounded him in his natural faculties. The priest and Levite represent the old law. The Samaritan represents Christ, and his beast, Christ’s humanity. The inn means the Church, the wine, the blood of Christ, and oil, his mercy. The innkeeper signifies St. Peter and his successors, the bishops and priests of the Church.
Fallen humanity is unaided by the old law, but is cared for only by Our Blessed Lord, who by taking on human flesh, carried the weight of man’s sin to and on Calvary. The Church has displaced the former Temple worship as the place on earth that still cares for recovering man. Already redeemed by Christ’s passion and suffering, the Church continues to help man along the road of salvation by the agency of the sacraments, especially the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass that re-presents the Sacrifice of Calvary in an unbloody manner. Church overflows by virtue of the sacraments with God’s mercy, governed by a special charism possessed by the pope and all the bishops. The pope and the bishops are given charge to continue caring for man, even though redeemed, still in need of help due to man’s wounded nature.
Our Blessed Lord in the process of saving humanity brings humanity to His Church, the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church alone gives salvation, because Christ so willed it to be so. The Catholic Church alone possesses those means which lead to salvation, such as the doctrine of Christ, the means of salvation appointed by Christ, the sacraments, and the teachers and guides of the Church who were established by Christ. The parable of the Good Samaritan teaches us that the very nature of salvation includes an important role for the Church. In fact, every man is bound to become a member of the Catholic Church. To do otherwise would be akin to the man who fell among robbers refusing a place in the inn. If he had done so, he would have undone all the care the Good Samaritan had shown him, and would have died in the wayside. So too the sinner who accepts Calvary, but rejects the Church. So much so, that whoever through his own fault remains outside of the Church will not be saved, but instead will perish on the roadside, outside the inn.
In today’s collect, we pray the Lord enable us to “run without stumbling towards the attainment” of His promises. In the introit we beseech God to come to our assistance, to make haste to help us. “O Lord, the God of my salvation, I have cried in the day and in the night before Thee.” We all long for the salvation that has been offered to us, but how many reject the saving ointments that Our Blessed Lord offers us in the Catholic Church.
However, we now live in an age that mocks Christ’s Church, disparages of her teachings, ridicules her saints, and subtly persecutes her children. How often do we hear the new, and ridiculous, adage, “love God, hate religion”? One who would say this may have Our Blessed Lord’s Name on their lips, but they are not of His fold. “Not every one that saith to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 7. 21). To reject right religion, to reject, specifically, the Catholic Church, is to reject the salvation Christ has won for us.
The evolution of this attitude is rooted in error and heresy. Wherever error has flourished, alongside it has flourished a hatred for the Church. Ever since the Protestant revolt of the 16th century, man has more and more rejected the Catholic Church, and in doing so, society has suffered more and more by degrees. The Church is an essential factor in promoting the welfare of the State and society in general. The Church has always taught obedience to authority, prevented many crimes, incited men to noble endeavors, and united nations. The Church has always rendered invaluable service to society by restraining men from crime by her teachings, reconciling enemies, promoting works of mercy and neighborly care, founding institutions for orphans, the sick, the blind, the deaf. Prior to the insanity of the Protestant revolt, all good statesmen supported the Church because the Church ensured a merciful and right order to society and concord between nations. However, since the Protestant revolt, the world began a decline into violence and madness, culminating in the bloodiest, most war torn century in history. The horrors of genocide and mass annihilation is the defining characteristics, not of some savage age long past, put of our most recent history, the twentieth century. Never before has man been so inhumane to man than our generation and the generations of our fathers and grandfathers.
The liberation of man from the Catholic Church has enslaved man. The Protestant revolt gave way to rationalism. Once one freed himself from the “fetters” of the Church, it was a small step to free himself from the “fetters” of religion all together. Rationalism gave way to atheistic humanism, in which man was exalted without reference to God, and man exonerated himself from original sin. But the stain remained and could not be ignored. So, instead of placing the blame for the stain on man’s sin, the blame was placed on certain segments of society, people with disabilities and certain races or economic classes. Thus was born eugenics and the horrors of Nazism and Stalinism. Today, this humanism is still thriving, bathed in the blood of millions of murdered, unborn babies, and it now threatens to once again spread it’s dark wings over infants, the aged, and those who suffer mental or physical handicaps. When Stalin and Hitler died, the humanism that gave birth to them lived on, and the horrors of the coming storm will make its younger children seem insignificant. Modern generations have refused to enter the inn; they have rejected the mercy of the Good Shepherd, and as a result what is left of Western civilization is languishing on the roadside. The robbers are approaching, bent on finishing what they started.
However, no matter the dark of night, God does not abandon His children. Even in this day of doctrinal and liturgical confusion, when the Devil has wrecked such damage within the very confines of Christ’s Church, there are still valid sacraments, there is still right teaching, and there are still good pastors left to us. There is a tendency toward pessimism, but we must remain optimistic. We have no choice, for we are children of the Promise. The darkness wrought by the Protestant revolt, for example, gave way to the Tridentine Reformation with all of its saintly heroes, such as Ignatius of Loyola and Philip Neri. There is much for us to learn from the men and women of that time.
On such man was St. John Eudes whose feast we celebrated on Wednesday. St. John Eudes promoted the fervent devotion to the Hearts of Jesus and Mary, and on Saturday we celebrated the Feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. One can never say too much about the very holy and venerable devotion to the Hearts of Jesus and Mary. In this devotion we are invited to practice humility, meekness and piety, and charity, and we enter into an ever deeper understanding of the work of our redemption wrought in the union of these two Hearts.
In the seventeenth century St. John Eudes organized the scriptural, theological, patristic, and liturgical sources relating to the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary and popularize them with the approbation of the Church. At the time, Europe was being ravished by the Protestant revolt, and error and heresy had become commonplace. God provides for His Church by His saints. St. John Eudes gave the Church a spiritual treasure by promoting and clarifying this devotion, and thus provided an important defense against heresy. While learning and sound preaching are necessary to combat confusion and heresy, they are not enough. Even more, prayer, devotion, and piety is required. Ever a reformer, St. John Eudes was convinced that by a devotion to the Hearts of Jesus and Mary great things could happen. The Sacred Heart of Jesus is the source of holiness. The Immaculate Heart of Mary is the model of the Catholic life.
The power of this devotion is in its Scriptural foundation.
In St. Matthew’s Gospel we read Our Blessed Lord’s words, “learn of me, because I am meek, and humble of heart.” Our Lord invites us to emulate the humility and meekness of His human heart. What ineffable humility is it that God the Son should hide His splendor and lower Himself to the condition of men? What ineffable meekness that the God-Man should live in obscurity for 30 years, and that His public ministry should require such charity in the healing of believers and nonbelievers alike, the gracious and the ingrates alike. What humility and meekness Our Blessed Lord had to suffer such ignoble and bitter agonies and a death on the Cross?
We are called to the same humility. In regards to humility, St. Vincent de Paul wrote:
We ought always to consider others as our superiors, and to yield to them, even though they be our inferiors, by offering them every kind of respect and service. Oh, what a beautiful thing it would be, if it should please God to confirm us well in such a practice.
We are called to the same meekness. Concerning meekness, St. Francis de Sales wrote:
Resist your impatience faithfully, practicing, not only with reason, but even against reason, holy courtesy and sweetness to all, but especially to those who weary you most.
Both humility and meekness are essential elements of charity, and play crucial roles in the manner we live out our Catholic religion among our fellow man. Those who forget humility and meekness in their dealings with others sorely lack charity.
Twice St. Luke refers to the Blessed Virgin’s Immaculate Heart. After relating the nativity narrative of Our Blessed Lord, St. Luke relates to us that “Mary kept all these words, pondering them in her heart” (Lk. 2. 19). Likewise, after telling of the finding of the Child Jesus in the Temple, St. Luke relates to us that “His mother kept all these words in her heart” (Lk. 2. 51). Mary is the consummate disciple, keeping and pondering, meditating and contemplating upon the great mystery of our salvation. In the Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mary is referred to as Vas insigne devotionis, Singular vessel of devotion, Vas spirituale, Spiritual vessel, Domus aurea, House of gold, and Fæderis arca, Ark of the covenant. All of these titles make reference to Mary bearing God in her womb. She is Theotokos, God-bearer. However, they also refer to the fact that she keeps all the mysteries of salvation in her heart.
We are called to emulate the Blessed Virgin’s Heart by lives of fervent prayer. More specifically, we are called by this consideration of the Immaculate Heart of Mary to engage in prayer that accustoms the soul to being in the presence of God. Prayer, be it vocal, meditative or contemplative must be intimate and simple. This is accomplished by always placing ourselves in the presence of the Almighty, and by considering His greatness and our lowliness. We must make the prayer of Mary our own: “My soul doth magnify the Lord; and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour; because he hath regarded the humility of his handmaid” (Lk. 1. 46, 47).
“But one of the soldiers with a spear opened his side, and immediately there came out blood and water” (Jn. 19. 34). St. John tells us in his Gospel that Mary, the Mother of Jesus, at the foot of the cross witnessed the opening of the Savior’s Heart. From that Heart there flowed not just blood and water symbolizing the sacraments of the Church, but the blood and water that are the affect and origin of the sacraments. As Our Blessed Lord’s heart was opened, and out flowed the instruments of our redemption, Mary’s heart was pierced as well, fulfilling the prophesy of Simeon in St. Luke’s Gospel: “And thy own soul a sword shall pierce, that, out of many hearts, thoughts may be revealed.”
In this we apprehend the mystical union of the Hearts of Jesus and Mary in the work of our redemption. This union was begun when Mary gave her blessed fiat, and she conceived of the Holy Ghost. The Heart of Jesus was conceived there, just below the Immaculate Heart of Mary. The work of our redemption is consummated when both of these Hearts, Mary’s now below Jesus’, are immolated together on Calvary hill. At the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass we unite our prayers to that of the priest’s prayers by meditating upon this immolation of the Hearts of Jesus and Mary.
This devotion provides a sure remedy in these times, for in troubling times it is best to always remember that true reformation begins with a sincere reformation of one’s own heart.
“A good man bringeth forth good things from the good treasure of his heart.”