Final Judgement – Dcn. John Stanley

Deacon John Stanley’s Homily July 14, 2019

“We are all familiar with this beautiful parable.  The term Good Samaritan has even become popular in the culture.  We all love to read and hear about inspiring and heroic stories. Allow me to tell you about a Good Samaritan.  As many of you know, I am involved in prison ministry. It began about 8 years ago at the invitation of my uncle, who is a retired teacher and football coach.  I accompanied him to visit a former student who was in prison in Missouri. Scott has given me permission to tell this story and use his name. Scott, in prison, has experienced the healing graces of Jesus.  He has turned his life around and this has not gone unnoticed by the prison authorities and a few years back, Scott was asked if he would accept a cellmate who was handicapped. He had special needs. This inmate was elderly and had developed a condition where he could not use his upper extremities.  He needed assistance in eating, in dressing, in bathing, in all aspects of personal hygiene. Scott gladly welcomed him and took good care of him. Scott told me that he never felt closer to God than when he had the privilege of helping this man, let’s call him Joe. One day, Joe became weak and short of breath and Scott eventually was able to convince the guards that Joe needed to go to the infirmary for Joe had a heart and a lung condition and he was actually near death.  Scott asked and amazingly received permission to visit him in the infirmary. This type of permission of an inmate visiting another inmate in a prison was strictly forbidden. Scott told me that when Joe looked up and saw him at his bedside he said, ‘What are you doing?’ And Scott said, ‘Well I came to visit you.’ And Joe looked at him maybe a little suspiciously and said, ‘Why?’ And Scott replied, ‘Because I love you.’ Joe had likely never heard those words before and this old, hardened, grizzled, inmate would later die in prison and he began to cry.

Now, let’s turn to this beloved Gospel reading.  In response to this scholar of the law, this lawyer’s question, ‘Who is my neighbor?’ Jesus tells the story of this unlikely hero, this despised Samaritan, today I would like us to reflect on this parable from perhaps a different perspective, through a different lens for when we read and take in the scriptures prayerfully, the Saints instruct us to practice this technique of placing ourselves into the scene in which we are reading and when we think of this parable, I think we like to identify ourselves with that Good Samaritan, but today I would like us all to contemplate ourselves as the victim who was beaten and left for dead, for that is who we are.  We are all sinners, we are all created in the image of God, but through the sin of Adam we have fallen and just like the victim we are wounded and unable to help ourselves. We hear of this priest and Levite that passed by, but it is the Samaritan, this hated outcast of the Jews, he comes along and sees the victim left for dead and he is moved with compassion. He stoops down, he cleanses the wounds with oil and wine. He bandages him and he places him on his beast of burden and takes him to the Inn for recovery. Jesus Christ is the Samaritan. God who humbled himself to be born of a woman, who suffered and died a terrible death, he stoops down from the cross and saves us.  It is Jesus Christ who pours oil on us in baptism and confirmation and it is through the bread and wine that becomes the body and blood of Jesus in the Eucharist that we will receive in a matter of minutes that saves our souls from death and gives us eternal life for like the good Samaritan, Jesus was hated and despised by the Jewish leaders and this is the same Jesus who bandages our wounds and heals us and saves us through the sacraments. And what about this Inn where the Samaritan takes the half-dead victim. We are in it. It is the Church. Pope Francis called the Church the ‘field hospital for sinners.’ The Samaritan pays the innkeeper to care for the victim. Jesus paid the price for all of us.  He redeemed us and ransomed us from sin by his blood on the cross.

Now I would like to return to my friend, Scott.  Did he receive anything for this act of compassion for bringing in this handicapped person?  One would think that it would be a good thing to set before the parole board when it comes to Scott’s eventual release from prison, but you see Scott committed a heinous crime some thirty years ago.  He is serving a sentence of life without possibility of parole, at least in this world in this mortal life. Scott will have his parole hearing, it’s known as the final judgement. Brothers and sisters we are all sinners.  Without the redeeming blood of Jesus shed on the cross for the redemption of our sins, we would all have a sentence of life without death without the possibility of parole, but Jesus Christ has paid the price of our salvation and opened the gates of prison for our eternal life.  It is not the priest or Levite who are neighbor to the Samaritan, this unlikely neighbor. Did you notice that the story really does not end? Jesus tells the lawyer who answers correctly about who his neighbor is, Jesus tells him, ‘Go and do likewise.’ Who is our neighbor? We will all be called to answer that question at our own final parole hearing in the final judgement.”