The Church is the Inn where we Shelter from the Robbers of the Soul

13 November 2019

To love your neighbor as yourself was a commandment of the Law of Moses for the Jews. But the critical point, around which there was much discussion, was who should be considered a neighbor. According to Jewish Law, the concept was often confused and limited. Some teachers of the Law even claimed it was illegal to help a gentile woman in labor, because another gentile would be born. To love your neighbor as yourself, means to love them as your own life. As Elder [now Saint] Sophrony, of the Monastery of Saint John the Baptists in Essex, wrote, it means that you should see the whole of mankind as if it were only one life, only one nature, with a great many faces. It follows from this that we should live with love for our neighbor. In this way, we’ll reach our final goal.

For the Pharisees, ordinary, illiterate people weren’t considered neighbors. The Essenes, again, saw as their neighbor only those who belonged to their community and proclaimed their hatred for the ‘son of darkness’.

In a homily on the parable of the Good Samaritan, Saint John Chrysostom states that the injured man is Adam. Jerusalem is the Kingdom of Heaven and wisdom; Jericho is the world. Blessed Moses is the priest and Aaron is the Levite, of the order of prophets. The man’s wounds are his sins. The form and face of the Good Samaritan are those assumed by Our Lord Jesus Christ. He calls him a Samaritan, not because of the nature of His divinity, but for his kindly manner. The mixture of oil and wine means that, once He’d combined the divine nature with the human and had matched loving-kindness with salvation, He saved us. The admixture of the oil and wine also indicates the union of the Holy Spirit with His blood, giving us life. The bandaging of the wounds signifies the binding of the devil and our liberation from the authority of the evil one. The two denarii symbolize the Old and New Testaments, while the Samaritan’s insistence that the inn-keeper look after the victim shows His concern for the gentiles and His confidence in them, in the Church. Saint John calls the Apostle Paul the ‘inn-keeper’, the support of Christians, giving the two denarii to hierarchs and the celebrants in every church.

For all of us, the Church is the inn. It’s the medical center for our souls and bodies, a place of recovery. The staff and the doctors at the inn are the celebrants of the holy sacraments. The Church welcomes everyone: young, old, people of color, people of no color, whatever their particular foibles. It doesn’t reject the licentious or the impure, because none of us are sinless. We’re all sinners. This is why the Fathers say that Paradise is full of repentant sinners. The Church embraces everyone, because there’s room for all of us. It brings us relief with its concern, it brings us strength with its sacraments and it brings us healing with Divine Grace, which always heals the sick and always completes the inadequate.

The command given to the teacher of the Law by the Lord is given to each of us. He asks that we show love and that we should put ourselves in the place of other people. It’s not enough to talk and advise theoretically, because, when it comes to rhetoric, we’re all specialists. We have to put ourselves into the position of other people, to make their wounds our wounds, taking no account of effort, sacrifice or reward. This is what Christ teaches us, both in the parable and also in His broader instructions in Scripture, through His life and His activities.

Unfortunately, although we talk about love, it’s about the only thing we don’t have. We don’t have real love. If it exists, it’s only in very few people. In the rest, it’s hypocritical, Pharisaical, there to be seen by others. We can see this as regards our relations with the rest of the world. You see neighbors not talking to each other, or, even worse, children who won’t even greet their parents. For no good reason. Even if there were good reason, are you not going to talk to God’s image? How will you see God’s face? And yet, we happily expect salvation and Paradise.

Let’s offer our love lavishly, in a simple and humble manner. Let’s listen to the pain of others and become useful people, in what we do. We can show our love either by words or deeds. Let’s put into practice the words of Saint Paul: let’s rejoice with those who are glad and suffer with those who are sad.