Sunday, July 12, 2009

A Gospel Meditation

Luke 10:25-37
"25On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. "Teacher," he asked, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?"
26"What is written in the Law?" he replied. "How do you read it?"
27He answered: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind'a]">[a]; and, 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'b]">[b]"
28"You have answered correctly," Jesus replied. "Do this and you will live."
29But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?"
30In reply Jesus said: "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. 35The next day he took out two silver coinsc]">[c] and gave them to the innkeeper. 'Look after him,' he said, 'and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.'
36"Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?"
37The expert in the law replied, "The one who had mercy on him."
Jesus told him, "Go and do likewise.""

Today, I was able to participate in a meditation on this gospel passage with a youth group from Florida. In the meditation, the youth leader invited us to imagine ourselves in the role of the Samaritan. This was something I had never done before, but in doing it, many new thoughts and ideas about this passage came to me.
First off, what could have been running through this Samaritan's mind as he came upon the badly beaten Jew. What happened to this man? Is this a trap to bring my guard down so that the robbers can attack me? This man is a Jew, and Jews revile and hate all Samaritans. They consider us to be half-bred apostates. If I help this man, he will be considered "unclean" for his contact with me. Perhaps he will even hate me for helping him and making him "unclean". When I get to a place for him to stay and be cared for, I may be turned away simply because I am a Samaritan. But look at this man. He suffers. His wounds are bad and he has received no help. If I pass him by, other are likely to pass him by as well. He could die. He may have family. Yes, he may be a Jew, he may even hate me, but I will help him. Through his suffering, he is my brother. I too have been broken and abandoned. I cannot leave him. I will not abandon my brother.
As I meditated on this parable, the images in my head changed and I became the Samaritan and the injured man became my coworkers. Most of the people I work with are not happy people. They are easily troubled, easily angered, and easily discouraged. I have often tried to be Christ to them, but either for my weakness or from their own issues, my attempts at kindness have often been interpreted as fake, selfishly motivated, or simply aggravating. It makes me so sad when this happens. Whether or not my coworkers have some amazing conversion experience from knowing Christ through me, I sincerely do care about them and just want to make their days a bit easier and their lives a bit better. When they don't see this, I feel so inept. I wonder how I could act or speak differently to convey my intent without sounding arrogant, judgmental, annoying, self-important, etc. For me, this is very difficult.
Today at work, I was just about ready to give up. I felt that no matter what I did I would just continue to get extra flack from everyone. In fact, lately it seems that the more I try to love my coworkers, the more I am insulted, taken advantage of, or ignored. I work to do a good job, I get assigned double work. A coworker asks to take my shift, but shows up late, so i get called by a manager who thinks that I'm lying about my shift being picked up. I try to help people get their work done and they leave me to do their jobs. When I left work today I was discouraged, frustrated, and annoyed. I felt that if this is how good behavior is rewarded, then it's a lost cause.
All of this came back up at me as I meditated on the passage of the good Samaritan. I realized that I had somewhere slipped into focusing almost entirely on what the personal costs to me would be. I was ashamed. In my mind as I found new resolve to help my imaginary wounded coworkers get up and walk ahead, I saw them transform into Christ next to me. He too was wounded and bleeding. And as we walked, in my meditation, I could feel the heat and the humidity pressing in against us as we labored down a dirt road. I looked up at the hot and cloudless sky and took a big sigh. "Okay Lord," I said to him, "Here we go" and with that, we pushed on. It was hard to help him and I could feel my strength failing, but as we walked, without my even noticing it, the scene had shifted. I was no longer helping Christ with His cross, but He was now helping me. There, my meditation ended.

So, here are some things that I took away from my meditation:
  1. If I can look for the troubles that my coworkers are deal with (their "wounds"), then my compassion will kick in and loving them will be easier.
  2. If I can learn to love, without counting the cost, then my love will be more pure and good.
  3. If I can remember to see Christ's presence in all those around me, then I will be able to treat them with more respect and love.
  4. If I can remember that as I strive to help Christ, it is really Christ who is helping me, then I will be at peace and I will be more successful.
  5. Without Christ, I can't do it. It is all for Him and from Him.
  6. Christ is awesome and I need to meditate on scripture more often :)

One more thing I wanted to say: Because of the number of Catholic in the world, the Liturgy of the hours, and other forms of prayer, there should be some Catholic somewhere praying at all times. Don't miss your turn.

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