Today the traditional Roman liturgy has us read the well-known parable of the Good Samaritan. It also happens to be the Sunday on which, here in Tasmania, our Archbishop has asked his priests to preach on the Catholic doctrine of marriage, in view of the upcoming plebiscite vote on what is wrongly called "same-sex marriage".
One cannot help but see in the poor man who has been beaten up, robbed, and left half-dead, the image of our world, so broken, so out of its senses, that it no longer sees the obvious. There is little profit in repeating here the tragic reality which is known to all, but it would perhaps be useful to say quite simply that our attitude to whomever does not see the obvious should be that of the Good Samaritan. No one should ever be abandoned as hopeless in this life, and sometimes we are called to extend a helping hand or a helping word to someone in doubt, or someone who is not in doubt, but who needs to be told the saving truth, evening if this truth is disturbing.
That truth is first and foremost the truth of why we are in this world. My personal reflexions over the years have led me to the strong conviction that almost all the woes of our society flow directly from the ignorance of eternal realities. If there is no afterlife, or if heaven is the final destination of all, regardless of how they lived, then life in this world, of necessity, reduces itself to finding ways of getting along with each other. And that of course is the open door to the widespread apostasy of our day, which has not spared the Catholic Church.
I cannot possibly express it any better than did St Gregory the Great in his book of morals on Job, a magnificent text we read this morning at Matins:
"There are some that take no heed to their life, and whilst they are seeking transitory objects, and either do not understand those that are eternal, or understanding, despise them, they neither feel grief nor know how to take counsel, and when they are taking no account of the things above which they have lost, they think, unhappy wretches, that they are in the midst of good things. For these never raise the eyes of their mind to the light of truth which they were created for, they never bend the keenness of desire to the contemplation of their eternal country, but, forsaking themselves amidst those things in which they are cast away, instead of their country they love the exile which is their lot, and rejoice in the darkness which they undergo as though in the brightness of the light.
"But, on the contrary, when the minds of the elect perceive that all things transitory are nought, they seek out which be the things for which they were created, and whereas nothing suffices to satisfy them out of God, thought itself, being wearied in them by the efforts of the search, finds rest in the hope and contemplation of its Creator, longs to have a place among the citizens above; and each one of them, while yet in the body an inhabitant of the world, in mind already soars beyond the world, bewails the weariness of exile which he endures, and with the ceaseless incitements of love urges himself on to the country on high".
In other words, being the Good Samaritan means reminding people that this life is short, that it will end soon, and that if we want to take part in eternal life, we must live in accordance with God's commandments. There is no other way to true happiness, in this life and in the next.