Sunday, July 14, 2013

Looking Ahead

Father Perry D. Leiker
By Father Perry D. Leiker

The legal expert asks Jesus: “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” And the legal expert even gives Jesus the answer: “You shall love … your neighbor as yourself.”

Jesus pats him on the back and tells him he answered correctly. Then the legal expert messes everything up by getting legalistic and technical. He asks Jesus what is the least he must do. He asks the minimalist question: “Who is my neighbor?”

Here’s the thing: If Jesus can tell him who is his neighbor, he can also find out who is not his neighbor. Who does he have to help? Who can he forget about? Jesus, therefore, does an end run around him with one of his stories. He tells about a man robbed, beaten, and left to die on the road. A priest and a Levite (both observers of the law) pass him by without helping in any way. A third man stops and helps him immediately and returns three days later to pay for any extra costs incurred for his care. Jesus asks him: “Who was neighbor to the victim?” Clearly, it was the Samaritan! The only one who treated him like a neighbor was the one whom the Jews would go to any extremes to avoid — a Samaritan.

Jesus illustrates the superiority of love over legal observance. This is proven through the actions of one considered ritually impure — a Samaritan.

Father Perry D. Leiker is pastor of St. Bernard Church. Reach him at (323) 255-6142, Ext. 112, or email

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