15th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Sunday, July 14, 2019
Fr. Kyle
Homily transcription: 

There is a line in a Robert Frost poem that says, “good fences make good neighbors”.  Indeed it is true that it is easier to put up with our neighbor if we don’t have to see their messy lawn, hear their annoying dog, or deal with their problems.  But Jesus’ parable in the gospel suggests that a good neighbor does not put up fences but is willing to tear them down.  I would like to suggest 3 reasons we are often quick to put up fences between ourselves and others:

  1.       First, we put up fences when our neighbor is different from us.  In the parable, Jesus says that it is first a priest and then a Levite who pass by on the other side of the road.  But the victim is just some strange traveler and so it is easy for them to just build a fence and pass on the other side.
  2.       Second, we put up fences when our neighbor might ruin our plans.  The parable says that the priest and the Levite are on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho.  They have places to be and probably things to do.  So it is easy for them to put up a fence and carry on.
  3.       Finally, we put up fences when our neighbor might make our lives messy.  The parable says the robber was beaten and wounded.  To stop would require them to treat the wounds and get their hands dirty.  It is easier for them to just put up a fence and not deal with it.

The good Samaritan breaks down all of these fences.  He does not care that the person is different.  He throws aside his own plans and even some of his money to help the victim, and he is not afraid to get his hands dirty

Sometimes we have the idea that, in order to be like the good Samaritan we need to go serve food at a soup kitchen, serve at a homeless shelter or go on a mission trip to some poor country.  But to be like the good Samaritan and tear down walls begins with the person right in front of us: the person who shares different opinions than us, the family member who has hurt us or the coworker whose life is a mess.  Now don’t hear what I am not say.  I am not saying that we don’t need to work at soup kitchens or homeless shelters.  On the contrary, we most definitely should.  But as Mother Teresa says, love does not begin in some distant land, love begins here.  Tearing down those fences begins in doing little things with great love in our lives.

Sometimes it seems like good fences make good neighbors.  And how easy it is to put up fences when others are different than us, when others might ruin our plans or when other might make our lives messy.  It is easier to just put up fences and not have to deal with all of that.  But that is not what Jesus is calling us to in todays gospel.  He is calling us to have hearts like the good Samaritan.  Our hearts should not be like our backyards with privacy fences, pretty landscaping and cute puppies frolicking the grass.  Our hearts should be like a homeless shelter; perhaps messy, smelly and open to anyone. 

Certainly, it can seem like good fences make good neighbors.  But that is not what Christ says.  Christ tells us to tear down those fences and then we can begin to love our neighbor.