Alright… So the obvious message in the gospel today is that even the total stranger...in fact, even somebody who might be our enemy...is our neighbor. And if we want to inherit eternal life, we are supposed to love our neighbor as ourselves. The bottom line is this...we cannot ignore the man in the ditch.
If that was all there was to the message, we'd be done... But Jesus always teaches more than one thing at a time. But rather than me TELLING you what the other underlying message is, I want to tell you my own parable... Instead of the Good Samaritan... I want to tell you the parable of the ‘Good American’.
Larry worked hard every day. He took a lot of pride in how hard he worked, in fact, so he tried to be the first one to arrive each day and to stay as long or longer than anyone else. He also took great pride in the relationship he had with his customers... going out of his way to do everything he could for them. They often remarked how HE was the person they could count on. That made him feel good. Oh... and he tried to be a true friend to his coworkers... offering to drop them off at the car repair... or join them for a drink a night or two each week to socialize and keep up on their family lives. These relationships were important to him... In fact, he was known to be a ‘great guy’ who would help ANYbody. He would never walk past the salvation army bucket at the entrance of Walmart without throwing in some change.
When he got home from work, dinner was usually on the table, and often, the rest of the family had already eaten, since the kids can't wait that late to eat. The kids came up immediately wanting to tell him about their day at school and what the puppy did that they were training. He explained he would have to talk to them later, since he had such a long day and needed to eat his supper. His wife also wanted to talk about her day... being that she had spent most of the day with the kids and craved an adult conversation. He sat down to eat with the newspaper in front of him and once in a while said, “umhm”... But basically didn't hear most of what she said. After supper, the kids wanted to play some x-box with him, but he remembered that the garage door opener was acting up and he needed to work on it. So he headed to the garage where he quickly lost himself in cleaning off the work bench while drinking a highball. Twice, the kids came out wanting to play, but he sternly told them he was busy and they should go clean their room or read a book...
The next night was much the same, but this time he got home a little earlier, because he needed to get the grass cut. The next night he didn't come home for supper at all, because he had his K of C meeting at church. His wife made a comment about him never being home, but he spouted back indignantly... “Do you want me to give up my night at church? Most wives would love to have a husband that gets involved at church.” She asked if he would be home the next night, but he explained that Bob from worked needed help rebuilding his carburetor....
This was a normal week for the good American.
As weeks turned into months turned into years, his wife became more frustrated and the more she tried to change things the more he got indignant about doing the best he could to provide for the family. “I don't have time to sit around and waste...”
The next night, his son asked
"Daddy, may I ask you a question?"
DAD: "Yeah sure, what is it?"
SON: "Daddy, how much do you make an hour?"
DAD: "That's none of your business. Why do you ask such a thing?"
SON: "I just need to know. Please tell me, how much do you make an hour?"
DAD: "If you must know, I make about $40 an hour."
SON: "Oh! … and his head drooped.” He thought for a minute then lit up with an idea:
SON: "Daddy, may I please borrow $20?"
Larry was immediately furious.
DAD: "If the only reason you asked how much I make is so you can borrow some money to buy a silly toy or some other nonsense, then you march yourself straight to your room and go to bed. Think about why you are being so selfish. I work hard every day for that money."
The little boy quietly went to his room and shut the door.
Larry sat down and stewed… getting even angrier about his son’s questions. How dare he ask such questions only to get some money?
After about an hour or so though, Larry had calmed down a bit, and started to think:
You know, I really didn’t give him a chance to answer…Maybe there WAS something he really needed to buy with that $ 20… and he really didn't ask for money very often. So he went to the door of his son’s room and opened the door.
DAD: "Are you asleep, son?"
SON: "No daddy, I'm awake".
DAD: "I've been thinking, maybe I was too hard on you earlier. It's been a long day and I took out my aggravation on you. Here's the $20 you asked for."
The little boy’s face lit-up, and he sat straight up, smiling.
SON: "Oh, thank you daddy!"
Then, reaching under his pillow he pulled out some crumpled up bills. Larry - seeing that his sone already had money, started to get angry again. The little boy slowly counted out his money, and then looked up at his father.
DAD: "Why do you want more money if you already have some?"
SON: "Because I didn't have enough, but now I do.
"Daddy, I have $40 now. Can I buy an hour of your time? Please come home early tomorrow. I would like to have dinner with you."
The priest and the Levite in the Gospel ignored the man in the ditch – but they did it for a good reason! If they had touched this man who was probably dead, they would have become unclean, and according to the law of God, they would not be able to perform their ministry at the temple. Larry too made good decisions, like any good American… but it’s too easy to concentrate on certain things that we THINK are important… and completely ignore the MOST important things.
“For this command that I enjoin on you today is not too mysterious and remote for you. It is not up in the sky, that you should say, ‘Who will go up in the sky to get it for us and tell us of it, that we may carry it out?’ Nor is it across the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will cross the sea to get it for us and tell us of it, that we may carry it out?’ No, it is something very near to you, already in your mouths and in your hearts; you have only to carry it out.
In other words... We already KNOW what to do, so I can stop preaching.
But our challenge is this…Look around at home... And this goes for everyone... This story is about a man, but applies equally to everyone... Teens, kids, wives and husbands…even a certain permanent deacon I know who has a wife. We often show more respect to a stranger than we do to the people closest to us....Look around home and pay close attention to who YOU are ignoring in the ditch.