A Reflection on Jesus the “Samaritan”

From the Gospel of John:

Then they said to Him, “We were not born of fornication; we have one Father–God.”

Jesus as the SamaritanTherefore Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would have loved Me, for I came forth and have come from God; nor have I come from Myself, but He sent Me.  Why do you not understand what I say? Because you are unable to hear My word.  You are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father you desire to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has not stood in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he tells a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar, and the father of lies. But because I tell the truth, you do not believe Me.   Which of you convicts Me of sin? And if I tell the truth, why do you not believe Me?  He who is of God hears God’s words; therefore you do not hear them, because you are not of God.”

Then the Jews answered and said to Him, “Do we not say well that You are a Samaritan, and You have a demon?”

Jesus answered, “I do not have a demon; but I honor My Father, and you dishonor Me.  And I do not seek My own glory; there is One who seeks it and who judges.  Most assuredly I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he shall by no means experience death.” (8:41-51, MKJV)

From Sermon 171.2 of the blessed Augustine:

“In this Samaritan the Lord Jesus Christ wanted us to understand himself. ‘Samaritan’ you see, means ‘guardian.’  . . .  He could have answered, ‘I am not a Samaritan, and I do not have a devil.’ What he did answer was ‘It is not I who have a devil.’ What he answered, he refuted; what he kept quiet about, he confirmed. He denied he had a devil, knowing himself to be the expeller of devils; he did not deny that he was the guardian of the weak.”

Our Lord was especially hard on those who claimed to know God and do His will, but through their actions and attitudes, revealed only their own hubris. Jesus never denied the needy. Rather, he sacrificed himself over and over to heal, to feed, to comfort, and to save.

Are we not all needy?  The more I grow in Christ, the more my hubris grows, and therefore my need increases.

Will Christ ever deny us in our need? He did not deny that he was brother to the outcast and the despised. Those He did deny during His earthly sojourn were those who denied Him and who denied mercy and comfort to His people, His “sheep.”

The prayer of a servant:

Father God, what a struggle it is to sacrifice myself! I cling to my selfish ambitions, my indulgences, and my prejudices like a man shipwrecked clings to his float.  I have yet to share my own energies hand-in-hand with those in most need. Forgive me when I boast and prattle, failing to serve you and your beloved with sweat and true sacrifice. Help me to cooperate with Your grace in becoming the Good Samaritan as did Jesus.

In the name of Jesus Christ, grant me, Father God, your Holy Spirit.  Amen.

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Reflections on the Sunday of Orthodoxy

For most Eastern Christians, this past Sunday was celebrated as the Sunday of Orthodoxy. Parishioners processed through the Church carrying an icon, an act of living history from the First Thousand Years. The Orthodox remembered the day in 843 A.D. when the heretical suppression and bloodshed mounted against the proper veneration of icons and the Christology behind them was finally laid to rest within the Apostolic Churches.

Throughout the century and a half of this persecution, the Roman church of the West had steadfastly rejected the arguments and methods of the iconoclasts (those who rejected icons) within the Eastern church and the Byzantine royal courts. In doing so, the unity with Rome anchored the faith and helped prevent the Eastern church from being consumed by false teaching and blinded by too close an alignment with political power.

However, the episode also sowed seeds of schism as Rome began the development of its own base of political power in the West, crystallizing in the crowning of Charlemagne as Holy Roman Emperor. As the Roman church began to align itself more and more with the royal courts and dynastic families over the next few centuries, the now official break between the Eastern and Western churches meant that the church of the West had lost an anchoring strength from the East. Rome itself fell into dubious practices and troublesome attitudes that eventually crystallized in the Reformation, from which point the splintering of the Christian witness in the West has accelerated through present day.

The faith that we received from the Apostles was preserved through the First Thousand Years precisely because the Church was united. The house was not divided against itself. As we move forward in this age, threatened as we are by secularism, false teachers, and the atomization of faith, we must push the Catholic and Orthodox churches from the bottom up to work earnestly for the recovery of our united strength.

Lord Jesus Christ, physician of our souls and bodies, abide with us and heal us of every stain. Strengten us in every good work and raise in us a spirit of love and forgiveness. Icon of the Sunday of OrthodoxyAmen