November 15, 2020

That Christians Ought to Imitate the Good Samaritan (St. John Chrysostom)


By St. John Chrysostom
(Against the Judaizers, Homily 8.3,4)
Imitate the Samaritan in the gospel who showed such concern for the man who had been wounded. For a Levite passed that way, a Pharisee passed by, but neither of them turned to the man lying there. They just went their way and, like the cruel, pitiless men they were, they left him there. But a Samaritan, who was in no way related to this man, did not hurry past but stopped, took pity on him, poured oil and wine on his wounds, put him on his own animal, and brought him to an inn. There he gave some money to the innkeeper and promised him more for taking care of a man who was in no way related to him.
He did not say to himself: 'What do I care about him? I am a Samaritan. I have nothing in common with him. We are far from the city and he cannot even walk. What about this? Suppose he is not strong enough to make the long journey. Am I going to bring in a corpse, will I be arrested for murder, will I be held accountable for his death?' Many a time people go along a road and see men who have been wounded but are still breathing. But they pass them by not because they are stingy with their money, but because they are afraid that they themselves may be dragged into court and held accountable for the murder.
That gentle and benevolent Samaritan feared none of these things. He scorned all such fears, put the man on his own beast, and brought him to an inn. He did not think of any of these things - neither the danger, nor the expense, nor anything else. If the Samaritan was so kind and gentle to a stranger, what excuse would we have for neglecting our brothers when they are in deeper trouble? For those who have just observed the fast* have fallen among robbers, the Jews. And the Jews are more savage than any highwaymen; they do greater harm to those who have fallen among them. They did not strip off their victim's clothes nor inflict wounds on his body as did those robbers on the road to Jericho. The Jews have mortally hurt their victim's soul, inflicted on it ten thousand wounds, and left it lying in the pit of ungodliness.
Let us not overlook such a tragedy as that. Let us not hurry past so pitiable a sight without taking pity. Even if others do so, you must not. Do not say to yourself: 'I am no priest or monk; I have a wife and children. This is a work for the priests; this is work for the monks.' The Samaritan did not say: 'Where are the priests now? Where are the Pharisees now? Where are the teachers of the Jews?' But the Samaritan is like a man who found some great store of booty and got the profit.
Therefore, when you see someone in need of treatment for some ailment of the body or soul, do not say to yourself: 'Why did so-and-so or so-and-so not take care of him?' You free him from his sickness; do not demand an accounting from others for their negligence. Tell me this. If you find a gold coin lying on the ground, do you say to yourself: 'Why didn't so-and-so pick it up?' Do you not rush to snatch it up before somebody else does?
Think the same way about your fallen brothers; consider that tending his wounds is like finding a treasure. If you pour the word of instruction on his wounds like oil, if you bind them up with your mildness, and cure them with your patience, your wounded brother has made you a richer man that any treasure could. Jeremiah said: 'He who has brought forth the precious from the vile will be as my mouth.' What could we compare to that? No fasting, no sleeping on the ground, no watching and praying all night, nor anything else can do as much for you as saving your brother can accomplish.
* In this homily Chrysostom criticizes those Christians in Antioch who observed the fast of the Jews after the Jews encouraged them to keep the fast in exchange for physical and spiritual healing. For this reason, Chrysostom compares the man who had fallen among thieves on the road as those Christians who have kept the fast of the Jews, and encourages the faithful Christians to show concern for their fallen brethren that kept this fast and to treat their spiritual wounds by which the Jewish practice wounded them. This can further be applied to any Christian who has fallen away from being a faithful member of the Church, and that their fellow faithful Christians ought to show concern for them.