Life & Soul

Word This Week

The Good Samaritan by David Teniers the Younger, after Francesco Bassano

‘Christ Jesus is the image of the unseen God and the firstborn of all creation, for in him were created all things in heaven and earth. God wanted all perfection to be found in him, and all things to be reconciled through him and for him, when he made peace by his death on the Cross.”

St Paul’s quotation of an early Christian hymn enables us to understand who Christ is and, within that understanding, to understand who we are and the meaning of our lives.

Our existence is not some cosmic accident. We were created through Christ and for him. Our belonging is with him, and, despite the frailty and confusion of sin, his death brings the peace for which we long.

Christ is our way to the Father, enabling the intimate relationship with God anticipated by the prophet Moses. “For the law that I enjoin on you today is not beyond your strength or beyond your reach. No, the Word is very near to you, it is in your mouth and in your heart for your observance.”

Moses was responding to the fundamental uncertainty that plagues every sinful heart. We long to live the virtuous life that we have glimpsed in God, but fear that its performance is beyond our frailty. Such fears, distancing us from a loving Father, are the natural consequences of sin. They trap us into the forlorn misconception that salvation must become our achievement rather than God’s. Moses insisted that salvation would be the work of God’s Word, dwelling in the hearts of his faithful.

Challenged by a lawyer, Jesus echoed the words of Moses. True love of God and neighbour flows from God’s presence within us, a presence so powerful that it breathes through every fibre of our being. Trusting in such a presence, we can indeed love God and neighbour with our whole heart, soul, strength and mind.

During this Year of Mercy the parable of the Good Samaritan is a timely reminder. If we truly believe that we are called to become God’s presence, words are not enough. Those who become the dwelling place of the Father can never pass by the need of our neighbour, for in the needy we see a world crying out to the Father. Christ’s conclusion to the parable of the Good Samaritan does not admit exception. “Go, and do the same yourself.”

This article first appeared in the July 8 2016 issue of The Catholic Herald. To read the magazine in full, from anywhere in the world, go here.