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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Robert Barron » Robert Barron - Christ Can Heal Us

Robert Barron - Christ Can Heal Us

Robert Barron - Christ Can Heal Us
TOPICS: Healing

Peace be with you. Friends, the gospel for this fifteenth Sunday of the year is one of Jesus' best-known parables: the story of the Good Samaritan. Something that Karl Barth taught in the twentieth century, he learned it from the Church Fathers, is that every parable of Jesus, every teaching of Jesus really is about him. That's to say, they might have a moral import that we can draw ethical lessons from them, so we should behave the way the Good Samaritan does, but at the deeper level, all these stories are finally about him, because he's the great model of the moral life and the ethical life. Well, this is a really good example of that principle I think.

Another place to find this idea is in Chartres Cathedral, my favorite church in the world. One of the splendid windows on the side of Chartres interweaves two stories, the story of the fall and the story of the Good Samaritan. Again, this is from the Church Fathers, that these two stories illustrate each other. So let me show you with that in mind that this story is fundamentally about Christ in relationship to fallen humanity. Let's walk through it step by step. So listen to the opening line of the parable. How often, by the way, in great storytellers and novelists and poets, the opening line is of great significance. So listen: "There was a man going down from Jerusalem to Jericho".

Well, anyone who's been to the Holy Land knows this, that there's literally a great descent from Jerusalem, Mount Zion, it's high hill country, and then you literally go down this long road to Jericho, and of course Jericho is one of the lowest cities in the world because it's the level of the Dead Sea, which is one of the lowest places on earth. Jerusalem is always associated with heaven. Think of the heavenly Jerusalem with salvation; it's the place where God dwells. So Jerusalem stands for the heights, the heavens. Jericho, which is downhill from Jerusalem, stands for the city of sin. Think of when the Israelites come into the Promised Land, they cross over the Jordan and the first place they have to conquer is Jericho in that great liturgical display. They process and they blow the trumpets and they sing and down come the walls of Jericho. Well that means they're conquering the city of sin.

Think of blind Bartimaeus in the Gospel of Mark. He's sitting by the walls of Jericho. The idea there is that our blindness, spiritually speaking, is associated with this city of sin. So again, there was a man going down from Jerusalem to Jericho. That's all of us; that's fallen humanity that's fallen from its dignity as children of God and has fallen into this place of sin. So now we have the interpretive key for this whole story. Listen as he goes on. "He fell in with robbers".

Now, this was literally true in Jesus' time, and travel was always dicey in those days. There were no good roads and things were dangerous, but there also were kidnappers and robbers along the way, they say, especially the road from Jerusalem to Jericho, robbers and thieves and so on. But let's keep reading it spiritually. What does sin do to us? It robs us of our dignity, it robs us of our powers, our spiritual powers, our intellectual powers, the powers of will. Sin compromises us. The Council of Trent is really good on this point, that sin produces a kind of falling apart within us; an injustice obtains inside of us. That means we're out of balance, we're off kilter.

As sinners, we don't see things right. We don't think about things the right way. Our wills are perverted, our passions are now at odds with each other and together at odds with our will and our mind. Does that sound familiar now, fellow sinners, listening to me? Sin has robbed us of all of this. It's compromised all of us. It's a very important point, I think. for biblical people to make over and against our culture today, which tends so to valorize the individual. "All is great with me, whatever I say is right. Just let my voice be heard".

Now, biblical people know that we are severely compromised. We've been robbed of these powers on our journey from Jerusalem down to Jericho. Listen now as they go on. "They," the robbers, "stripped him, beat him, and then went off leaving him half dead". I'll speak now out of the Catholic tradition, does sin, original sin and its effects, utterly destroy our spiritual capacities? No, we don't say that. We don't have an anthropology of total depravity, to use the technical language. You'll find that in Luther and Calvin, for example. Catholics don't hold that. We hold that we remain in the image of likeness of God but we are compromised. We're affected, we're debilitated.

So this language to me seems exactly right. They stripped him, that's an act of humiliation, isn't it? If you're stripped naked in a public place that's humiliating. Well, sin does humiliate us. Of course it does. They beat him, so we're, again, compromised. But then, they went off leaving him half dead. That's about right. We're not spiritually completely dead, but we're half dead, or turned around, we're only kind of half alive, we sinners. All right, listen now as the story goes on. "A priest happened to be going down the same road. He saw him but continued on. Likewise, there was a Levite who came the same way. He saw him and went on".

Now, official religion, a priest and a Levite. The representatives of law and liturgy and the great Jewish tradition. Is Luke saying here that these are just hopelessly compromised, that these are bad in themselves? No, no, no, I don't think so. I mean, no one coming out of the Jewish tradition would ever say that these things are bad in themselves, that the temple and law and Torah and liturgy and all that are bad, no. But notice this little detail that's often overlooked. "A priest happened to be going down the same road," from Jerusalem to Jericho. "A Levite who came the same way..."

You see what these stand for, therefore, are compromised versions of religion. Not religion in itself, not religion at its best, but call it compromised versions of religion, these people going down the same road as the Samaritan. Well, that's why they're compromising, but that's why they can't help him. And you see it reflected in their bad attitude; even though they see this poor man beaten and stripped and humiliated by the side of the road, they don't help him because they represent a fallen religiosity. Still on display today? Oh, you bet, look all around. Good law and liturgy and custom and tradition, but compromised by sin. So it can't really help us, it can't help us in our sin. Okay, now the turning point. "But a Samaritan who was journeying along came upon him and was moved to pity at the sight".

Now, we know this, it was very well-known to people in Jesus' time who heard this story, a Samaritan, they were half-breeds, they were outsiders, they were Jews who had intermarried with the Assyrian invaders long before. They were seen as compromised figures, not true in their religion, morally corrupt. Pious Jews went around Samaria on their way from south to north or north to south. Samaritans were just a bad lot. So think of, look, all of us sinners have groups that we don't like. Well, think of that's the group we're talking about. And the Samaritan who was journeying along came on him, but he was moved to pity at the sight.

Well now, who's the Samaritan? Remember our interpretive key here; we're talking about the fall of humanity, and now we're talking about Jesus. Corrupt religion can't solve the problem, but this outsider, and see, mind you, Jesus, who was in his own time from Nazareth, "can anything good come out of Nazareth?", Jesus, this questionable figure in the minds of many. But he's the one who shows pity, the mercy. How good Pope Francis is of course, emphasizing "misericordia," the mercy of God, the mercy of Christ. This is the pity that the Son of God shows to fallen humanity as we are languishing by the side of the road in our sin. Listen now. "He approached him and dressed his wounds, pouring in oil and wine as a means to heal". Ah, one of the most basic descriptions of Jesus, everybody, is "soter," which means healer. That's translated into Latin as "salvator," savior.

I've often told you, I think, that our word "salve," S-A-L-V-E, comes from that "salvator". It means "healing balm". Jesus is a healer, and notice what he does. He pours in oil and wine as a means to heal. Is that accidental? I don't think so. It stands here for the sacramental life of the Church. Oil which is used at Baptism, oil which is used at Confirmation, oil which is used at Holy Orders, oil which is used at the Anointing of the Sick. And wine, of course, stands for the Eucharist. How does Christ heal us? All of us, we're fallen. We're members of the fallen human race. We're languishing by the side of the road. Corrupt religion can't save us, but Christ can save us by bringing us precisely to authentic religion, which is found in the sacramental life of the Church.

You know the beautiful thing, everybody, the Church is full of compromised people, yeah, like me and like you. I mean, let's face it. Nevertheless, across the centuries, in its preaching, in its authority, in its sacramental life, the Church remains integral. The Church remains the means of salvation. And we see it there: Jesus, through the sacraments, pouring healing balm into our wounds. Then listen, "he hoisted him on his own beast and brought him to an inn, where he cared for him". What's this now but a beautiful symbol of the Church, the inn where this sick and beaten-up and compromised man is cared for. How beautifully Pope Francis compared the Church to a field hospital, remember that some years ago? People are staggering off a battlefield.

Well, that's true of our culture today, isn't it? But they stagger toward this field hospital of the Church, where they are cared for above all sacramentally. He goes on, "The next day he took out two silver pieces and gave them to the innkeeper". We speak of Christ, the Redeemer. Do you know what "redeemer" means? It means the one who's bought somebody back. "Redimere," to buy back from. You'd redeem someone from a kidnapper, you'd buy him back. What's the redemption? Christ paid the price that we owed as sinners but that we weren't able to pay. There we were helpless, so he pours in the healing balm of the sacraments and he buys us back. He pays the price on the cross to bring us salvation. Beautiful; the fall of man is interwoven with the journey of Christ all the way down to our God-forsakenness.

Now, one last stop. Jesus concludes, "Which of these three", so the priest, the Levite, the Samaritan, "Which of these three was neighbor to the man who fell in with the robber"? The answer comes, "The one who treated him with compassion". Jesus said to him, "Go and do the same". Okay. Now we see the ethical implication of this great description of Christ. Once we know who Christ is, our job is clear. We are to be other Christs to the world. Once we understand this is about how Jesus heals a fallen humanity, that's now our job. We've got our marching orders. Our job is to look around to see who are those who are lying helpless and wounded by the side of the road. And we are instruments of grace to bring them to the sacraments, to bring them to the Church, and bring them to the healing power of Christ. So there it is. We know who Jesus is, we know what we're meant to be and what we're meant to do. And God bless you.
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