Do the Same
© Hilary F. Marckx, all rights reserved
Defining the term, neighbor.
Not just our pals
or those who are like us,
but ones we have never met,
people who do not live down the road from us,
someone with whom we would not
normally share our lives,
someone we have been brought up
to distrust—someone not of our
culture, class, race, nationality…
The example Jesus used
The Levite was a true and unbending believer
who was indoctrinated to believe
Samaritans were creatures of a lesser everything
and not to be trusted or associated with.
It was the Samaritan
who saw beyond his cultural and religious training
and viewed the extremes of human need,
and the commonality of pain
We must not, do not dare allow our
religion to get in the way of compassion—
“Go and do the same…,” said Jesus
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Jesus is equating the act of being a neighbor with being in a good relationship with the Divine Being. It seems that for Jesus to love God is to act outside of ourselves. Prayer and spirituality are inextricably linked to one’s actions. If we want to call ourselves people of faith, we need to link our inner prayer and spiritual activities to our outer actions within our communities and beyond. When I think of things such as Mysticism, I think that if the work done is only about the one praying and seeking then It is mostly a dead end.
How much of our life is spent worrying about what we should do or not do about something? In the depth of our souls is a longing to be right, to do the right thing, to live in a way that we can be proud. In the depth of our souls dwells the God of love, compassion, and grace. It seems to me that in the book of James we find the template for living rightly. In James 2:18 in the Message we read, You can no more show me your works apart from your faith than I can show you my faith apart from my works. Faith and works, works and faith, fit together hand in glove.
Understanding this as the Mystical way goes a long way toward understanding what Jesus was about in the Luke reading and helps us to find deeper meanings within our own selves. The Levite had faith, the Samaritan had works. Reading James and hearing Jesus we are left to assume that it was the Samaritan who actually had faith.
We are all on a spiritual journey. We seek to become more and more deeply attuned to the divine person. In the above text Jesus is telling us that we are to get this closer relationship with the divine through both prayer and action. The Greek word is Praxis. Wikipedia tell us that … Praxis is something that goes beyond practices, actions, or behaviors. Praxis is described as a combination of reflection and action that realizes the historicity of human persons. In this sense actions are realized in light of the way they affect history. History has to be seen as a whole, combining in an incarnational way, our salvation history and our “human” history. A mystical way is a way of both faith and works.
That translates for the purpose of this reflection as a back and forth, or cyclical, motion of reflection and action, reflection and action. We pray, meditate, contemplate on the nature of the divine being and our interaction with that being. Then, we are led to action. We take that action and then we go back into meditation/reflection on the divine being until once again we take action.
This is praxis, and the meditation-action technique is not a reserved technique. All it requires is the willingness to engage in action after your meditation on the divine. There is no particular action that must be undergone except that the action should be somehow related to the meditation. The notion that action follows meditation grounds a Mystical journey.
Our meditation should be intentional. When we meditate we actively seek a Presence deep within our heart of hearts, our soul. When we take action, our actions will in certain ways be based upon our connection to the presence we have sought and found. If we engage deeply with the Spirit of God, our actions will reflect that engagement and will become more and more in tune with the grace we have sought in our meditation.
A praxis-based mystical practice would look something like this: We pray, deeply, and out of that prayer, our actions change. We then meditate/reflect again, and this time we include our actions within the framework of our search for the one we know as divine. As we continue to pray/meditate/reflect on the Divine Being, over time we can begin to understand a coming together of our seeking a divine relationship and our actions. Our actions begin to come more into alignment with the One Whom we seek in our prayer.
The practice of meditative prayer is good. Seeking God at the deepest level possible, in the most secret recesses of our souls is something to work at and to achieve. Yet without the fruits of the connection made there being carried out and into our personal and communal connections, there may be not much more beyond a narcissistic kind of achievement. It seems that our neighbors are those we have been culturally trained to avoid or shun, AS WELL AS those with whom we live. Mystical praxis opens the spiritual doors to wholeness.
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Luke 10:25-37 — The Message
Just then a religion scholar stood up with a question to test Jesus. “Teacher, what do I need to do to get eternal life?” He answered, “What’s written in God’s Law? How do you interpret it?” He said, “That you love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and muscle and intelligence—and that you love your neighbor as well as you do yourself.”
“Good answer!” said Jesus. “Do it and you’ll live.” Looking for a loophole, he asked, “And just how would you define ‘neighbor’?”
Jesus answered by telling a story. “There was once a man traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho. On the way he was attacked by robbers. They took his clothes, beat him up, and went off leaving him half-dead. Luckily, a priest was on his way down the same road, but when he saw him he angled across to the other side. Then a Levite religious man showed up; he also avoided the injured man. “A Samaritan traveling the road came on him. When he saw the man’s condition, his heart went out to him. He gave him first aid, disinfecting and bandaging his wounds. Then he lifted him onto his donkey, led him to an inn, and made him comfortable. In the morning he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take good care of him. If it costs any more, put it on my bill—I’ll pay you on my way back.’
“What do you think? Which of the three became a neighbor to the man attacked by robbers?” the religion scholar responded. “The one who treated him kindly,” Jesus said, “Go and do the same.”