I spent five years serving as the Secretary of Sacred Heart Province. One of the responsibilities of the Secretary is to keep the files. Every letter that the Provincial Minister or Provincial Vicar writes, every letter they receive was to be correctly filed for future reference. It has been said that 95% of everything that is filed away is never seen again. I cannot attest to the accuracy of this statement. However, I can say that whenever a friar passed away, it was my job to go through his file and send anything that was relevant to the archives.
Oftentimes I would find that the oldest thing in the file of any friar was the application form he had completed when seeking entrance to the Order. One of the questions on the application sought the reason why the applicant wished to be a friar. More often than not, I found an answer that read, “I wish to save my eternal soul.”
The scholar of the law who approaches Jesus in the Gospel today seems to want the same thing. However, the question he asks is incorrectly stated. The scholar of the law does not realize that there is nothing any of us can do to gain eternal life. There is no way to earn this gift. It is freely given, never earned. More than a few times, Jesus would tell someone, “Your faith has saved you.” Faith is not something that any of us can do. Faith simply is. A person of faith places him or herself in the hands of God and trusts that God will save.
The Parable of the Good Samaritan is not a story of a man doing something to save himself. It is the story of a man who walks through life with love for God and love for neighbor. By way of contrast, the story of the Prophet Jonah is just the opposite. Sent to preach to the citizens of Nineveh, Jonah refuses to do so because he knows that God will relent if the Ninevites repent. Ninevites were enemies of Israel. Jonah could not bring himself to preach repentance to people he would rather see dead than alive. So instead of walking with God, Jonah attempts to run away from God.
You and I must learn to love our neighbor – everyone, including our enemies. When we have learned this lesson, we will have learned what it means to gain eternal life.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator