Monday, 11 July 2022

The 'Inn of Mercy'

Deuteronomy 30.10-14 The Law is not beyond your strength or beyond your reach

Colossians 1.15-20 All things were created through Christ and for Christ

Luke 10.25-37 The one who showed mercy




Our son, Charles, is currently on pilgrimage in the Holy Land.


I would commend every Christian who can, to go to the Holy Land as a pilgrim.


I realise not everyone can, but it is my hope that in the next couple of years that we could look at a Minster pilgrimage there.


That sounds a long way off, but it is one to ponder and then, sadly, to save up for.


There are many good reasons to go, but one of the things about the Holy Land is that you are taken to places traditionally associated with, or believed to be, the place where certain things in Sacred Scripture happened.


At some of them you can say, ‘yes, this is where it was’ for example the Sea of Galilee this is where Jesus called the fishermen, this is where he stilled the storm.


Other places are less certain.


Is the Church of the Beatitudes really on the site of the Sermon on the Mount? Well, it may be, and if not then it was somewhere very nearby.


But there is one place that is certainly not the location of what is claimed.


I was once on pilgrimage in the Holy Land when we were shown on the Jerusalem to Jericho road a café that is reputedly the site of the inn to which the Good Samaritan took the wounded man.


Now, the road from Jerusalem to Jericho exists, and Charles will be travelling down it today – albeit in an air conditioned coach.


But café on the roadside is set up by an entrepreneur with an eye for the main chance.


The Good Samaritan is a parable and not claiming to be an historic account, so the café there today is not the inn where the wounded man was taken.


The point of a parable is to convey meaning in narrative form, i.e. telling a good story. Parables take us further and open up deeper themes.


And this parable illustrates who is a neighbour and how we are a neighbour, and it takes us deep into who we are and the merciful nature of God.


The participants in our online Lectio Divina group last Tuesday, where we spend extended time pondering in silence the meaning of Sacred Scripture, drew out some wonderful insights into this parable.


Take the young man who prompts the parable. He observes the commandments.


So what is it about him that he wants to justify himself? Do you, do I, seek to justify our spiritual status before God or before other people?


The priest and the scribes. They are meant to be ‘good people’ and clearly fulfil their cultic functions, but they are lacking: what is it in them, or what they see in the wounded man, that makes them walk on by?


The parable invites us to ask: what do I walk by today?


Who are the people, what are the situations that are broken and wounded and need our attention and mercy?


Who is the Christlike figure in the Parable? Orthodox Christians read this parable as prefiguring the Passion of Christ, the one beaten, scourged and ultimately left for dead as he is mocked by passers-by.


Or is Christ to be seen in the Samaritan? The Samaritan shares our humanity but is radically different in nationality; just as Christ shares our humanity but is divine too.


The Parable of the Good Samaritan opens up these questions for us.


Even the shortest of parables endlessly generates questions and insights with the aim of making us grow spiritually.


Remember the Sacred Scriptures are reading you, as much you are reading them. Reading sacred scripture is not like looking at a picture but looking at a mirror in which you see yourself, warts and all, and also what you can become.


In that spirit we can ask: where is the inn that the Samaritan took the wounded, robbed man?


Clearly it is not, and never was, a physical inn, now a café, on the side of the main Jerusalem to Jericho road in the Holy Land.


But the Inn of the Good Samaritan does exist.


The inn of the Good Samaritan is any place where mercy is shown.


The inn is located too in the inner recesses of the human heart.


Is your heart, like the sacred heart of Jesus, a place where mercy is found?


Is your life a place in which mercy is seen?


How do you show mercy to your neighbour?


The parable reveals that the neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of robbers is the one who showed him mercy. And what is Jesus’ conclusion? It’s a challenge and a commission.


‘Go and do likewise’.

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