Galatians 3:16-22 St Luke 10:23b-37
Blessed are the eyes that see what you see!
We are ascending, as if by steps, into the life of God.
Last week, in our Gospel, Jesus opened the ears of a man who was deaf and opened his mouth in praise. Likewise we are hearing the Word of God at ever deeper levels in our soul and as that happens our mouths are opened in the praises of God.
This morning Jesus says to each of us, Blessed are the eyes that what you see. We are beginning not just to believe in Jesus but to see, that is, to know Him dwelling within us.
And His Spirit is teaching us daily inwardly. We are not afraid of his voice of correction inwardly, because we know that His is merciful. Jesus relieves us of all fear of condemnation as we trust in His perfect self-offering. We are listening and hearing His voice because we desire to ascend into the heights of heaven.
I tell you, that many prophets and kings desired…to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.
The new life we are living in Christ includes the promise of seeing Jesus, and of hearing His voice within us: this is the promise of the Holy Spirit, of Christ’s Spirit dwelling in our hearts. It is about the inward illumination of our soul by His Spirit. Jesus promises this Gift to restore our souls, and lead us in the end to the beatific vision – to see God face to face.
A clever lawyer, in the Gospel today, asked Jesus what he should do to inherit eternal life. He’s not asking what he should think or believe, but how he should act – what shall I do?
Jesus asks him what Moses said we must do – He responds, love God with all that you are and love your neighbour as yourself. Jesus says, “You have answered correctly; do this and you will live.”
The Lawyer, quickly tries to qualify and limit love, perhaps because of some perceived ambiguity in the Law or perhaps he has perceived the impossibility of such a high calling. He asks Jesus, And who is my neighbour?
So Jesus tells the story of the Good Samaritan.
You know it well – A man is stripped and beaten by thieves and left dying at the side of the road. A priest and a Levite, who were both teachers of the Law of Moses, and servants in the Temple, pass by a man without helping. It is the outsider, the Samaritan, who stops and helps – he is the one who is neighbour to the man in distress, he is the one who shows mercy – and Jesus says, You go, and do likewise.
Knowing the Law of Moses, which describes something of the breadth of what love is, did not help the priest or the Levite in the parable to do the Law of Moses, to love their neighbour, it just showed up their hard hearts.
It is as St. Paul says in today’s Epistle, If a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the Law. But the Scripture (that is, the Law and the Prophets) imprisoned everything under sin. The Law merely shows us our unrighteousness but does not bring us into the kingdom of heaven, it does not give us a new heart, it did not enable the priest or Levite to go and do likewise.
How can we go and do likewise?
In the Newsletter I sent to those on our emailing list last Tuesday, I sent Fr Crouse’s reflections on this parable fo Jesus. He wrote,
A parable is… a symbolic or illustrative story, and one must look beneath the surface; one must look beyond the sign to what is signified. And if one does that, one may find (as ancient interpreters did) a more universal theological and religious meaning.
Who is the wounded wretch, lying by the wayside, stripped of his raiment, and half-dead? Who is this but lost mankind, wounded by sin, distracted from his road of pilgrimage, stripped of human dignity, and deprived of truly human life? And who is that magnanimous Samaritan, that despised outsider, who brings solace and healing, who binds up the wounds, and makes provision for the care and convalescence of the traveller? Who is this but Christ himself, who comes here from outside, as it were; who comes in mercy and forgiveness, and makes provision for our new life in grace, with the two-fold coinage of word and sacrament?...
But what about this final admonition: "You go, and do likewise"? Is what we're left with in the end simply a moral exhortation which any liberal humanist - ancient or modern - would certainly applaud? Moral exhortation, as Aristotle long ago explained, and as we all know perfectly well from our own experience, is of very limited use: the more fundamental issues have to do with moral perspectives and motivations. We can "go and do likewise" only insofar as we ourselves become good Samaritans, and that is possible only by the Good Samaritan's gift...
What is the Good Samaritan’s gift and how do we get it?
St Paul describes in today’s Epistle this gift as - the promise to Abraham.
What were those promises? In Genesis [12:1,2; 17:6,8], God says to Abraham:
I will make your name great.
In you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.
I will make you exceedingly fruitful.
I will give to you, and your descendants after you, the land of your sojournings…for an everlasting possession, and I will be their God.
But how could we be a blessing to all nations if we are like everyone else?
In Galatians, in the same chapter from today’s reading, St Paul makes more explicit what was that promise to Abraham. In Galatians 3:14 he says “in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham [comes] upon the Gentiles… and what is that blessing? …that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.” And later in the same chapter he says, in Christ we are all sons of Gods, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” [3:26, 27]
St Paul is saying that by faith and baptism we receive the promise made by God to Abraham of being infilled with the Holy God. St Augustine’s favourite word for the Holy Spirit was the Gift. This is the Samaritan’s Gift. We become Good Samaritans by putting on the Gift of the Good Samaritan, by putting on Christ’s Spirit.
Each one of us in our lives has been broken in some way by the world, the flesh and the devil. I know my own story, and I know the stories of many of you. We’re not able to be the blessing we would like to be to others until we are healed and restored by Christ. Our broken hearts are being healed, not by our knowledge of the Law, but by our faith in and love of Jesus Christ.
The Samaritan found the man by the side of the road, poured upon his wounds oil and wine, as Christ has anointed each of us with His Spirit in our baptism and washed us with the wine of His blood to cleanse us of sin. We are now in the Inn, the Church Jesus founded, to restore us Sunday by Sunday. He takes care of us by His Word and Sacrament. And He will come at the end of time to reveal Himself to us – we are being made ready to see him face to face! And Jesus will restore all that is lacking as we are glorified by Him.
We don’t want a religion that is simply moral exhortation, do this and don’t do that. We want to be inheritors now of the new kingdom – with new hearts and minds, our faith turned to understanding and moving us into loving action.
As our wounds are healed by Jesus, all our spiritedness, that wellspring of energy inside us can be released towards the love of God and our neighbour as ourselves. We are made able to go and do likewise, because Jesus has gone before us and done likewise in us.
We are inheritors even now of that promise to Abraham and his descendant.
And through us the nations will be blessed.
And we are becoming more and more fruitful, and will become exceedingly fruitful.
And we are becoming possessors of our own souls, which is our homeland, an eternal inheritance…whose builder and maker is God. [Heb 11:10]
Therefore God is not ashamed to be called [our] God, for he has prepared for [us] a city. [Heb 11:16] And each of us here today are citizens of that city, the mystical body of Christ, the new Jerusalem, His Church.
Let us prepare ourselves now, through repentance and faith, for the Gift of the Good Samaritan, that our broken body may be healed by His body broken for us, and our souls washed through His most precious blood.
Almighty and merciful God, of whose only gift it comes that your faithful people do unto you true and laudable service: Grant, we beseech you, that we may so faithfully serve you in this life, that we fail not finally to attain your heavenly promises; through the merits of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
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Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain. Psalm 127:1,2