– Fr. Mark Patrick Hederman OSB

Carrauntoohil is the highest mountain in Ireland at 3,407 feet. Jerusalem is 1,200 feet above sea level. And by the time you get down to Jericho, you are 2,200 feet below sea level. So someone going down from Jerusalem to Jericho might be going down Carrauntoohil. Not only is it seriously steep but when Jesus was using this imagery, it was both dangerous and difficult; robbers and bandits peopled the hillside, it was known as the ‘Way of Blood.’

And that is the trajectory of all our lives, whether as individuals or as our world-at-large. We all went downhill at some point. Jerusalem is the password for ‘a place that is at peace.’ Shalom is the greeting: ‘peace be with you.’ Jerusalem is where we all hope to be.

The readings this Sunday take us through the whole history of Judeo-Christianity. The first from Deuteronomy is taken from the speech given by Moses to the Jewish people about to enter the promised land, the place of God’s eternal peace. Moses was God’s spokesperson 13 centuries before Jesus Christ. His was a very splendid view of humanity and the possibility of our being in close relationship with God. The Jews were a chosen people; this became a nationalized  religion. Samaritains, in their reckoning, were outside the pale. Jesus Christ rejected all such ostracization; he will establish a new Jerusalem, a community without borders, divisions, all-too-human sectarian divides. Not colour, not creed, not gender, not nationality, could ever exclude us from the love of God made manifest in Jesus Christ. The meaning of the word Ukraine is ‘border’ both historically, etymologically and especially now. We are asked to be ‘neighbours.’

The hero of Christ’s parable in our Gospel story is deliberately chosen by Jesus as an identifiable pariah: a Samaritain, as such, represents all those who have been left out of any previous  dreams about the human race. Samaritains were despised and hated ‘outsiders’ who worshipped falsely and desecrated true religion.

‘Who is my neighbour?’ the wise guy in the parable will catch us out. Christ’s answer is as much a challenge for us today as it was to the Jewish lawyer of his time on earth.

Saint Paul, who provides us with the extraordinary text of the Second reading, was himself a Jew and a Pharisee to boot. He saw that great cosmic dimension of Jesus Christ, trying to lift us out of all such identification and particularity. No matter who you are, Paul tells us in today’s Epistle, walk tall and aim high  as high as Carrauntoohil. Jesus Christ, who invented this story, is God come on earth as a human person to offer God’s love to every single human being that ever lived, or ever will live on this planet. He is not some well-meaning philosopher, some benign social reformer, ‘he is   the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.  In him all things were created . . . and in him all things hold together.’ ‘God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him,  and through him to reconcile us to himself.’ We have all been called to the new Jerusalem, to this place of peace and of love. Do not imagine that you have been left out. You are both the one who went down from Jerusalem to Jericho and the one who was looked after by the Good Samaritain.


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