Reflection: Fifteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time

Chinese Mass:Every Sunday 2:15 p.m.

Our Lady of the Assumption RC Church, Assumption Priory, Victoria Park Square, Bethnal Green E2 9PB (map)

After Mass you are welcome to join the community for a tea gathering

Bible study/sharing every Saturday (2:00-4:00 p.m.) at Notre Dame De France Church, 5 Leicester Place WC2H 7BX (near See Woo Chinese Supermarket, Leicester Square tube station)

Talk and discussion meeting First Tuesday of every month (4:00-6:00 p.m.) at Notre Dame De France Church


[1st Reading – Dt.30:10-14; Ps.68; 2nd Reading – Col.1:15-20; Gospel – Lk.10:25-37]


Although the story of “The Good Samaritan” is a very well-known parable, the dialogue leading up to the introduction of this parable is often overlooked, forgotten or not even taken into consideration. As always it is here that we have the keys to fully understand the parable.

We are told that “there was a lawyer”. We are not told anything about his religious cast (was he a Pharisee?). What we are told is that he is a Lawyer and therefore someone who makes his living through the Law i.e. someone who is interested in the practical aspects of the Law and not just the religious ones. Now, his question was aimed “to disconcert Jesus” and his question was a religious one: “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” At first glance this question may have seemed quite simple and straightforward but on closer inspection the question is actually quite misleading: Is “Eternal life” something that one has to works for (i.e. so one must “do” something)? Or is “Eternal life” something that someone else has worked for and then one inherits it because it is given to him because the other one has died (i.e. without having done anything)?

Jesus’ answer using two further questions is quite revealing. The first question “What is written in the Law?” is about the Law itself i.e. the Law of Moses. Being a Lawyer, Jesus is aware that he will know the actual words written in the Law. The second question “What do you read there?” is a more direct question where Jesus is asking him about how he, as a Lawyer, interprets what is written. It is not a question about whether he agrees or not, but a direct question for him – the Lawyer – to do something: to read the Law and to interpret it.

When the Lawyer quotes what is written in the Law in one sentence and answers Jesus’ first question, Jesus praises him for giving the right answer “You have answered right”, but Jesus also takes this opportunity to remind the Lawyer to “do” what is written in it and therefore have life! But at the same time, the Lawyer fails to answer Jesus’ second more direct and personal question. This Lawyer was very good at talking about things that do not touch him directly – the Law (even though the answer about what this particular law says was a very interpersonal one). But he was not very good at talking about his own interaction with it. Instead of answering Jesus’ second question, he asks Jesus a further question “Who is my neighbour?” because the Lawyer was “anxious to justify himself”. Jesus responded to the Lawyer’s further question by telling the parable of “The Good Samaritan” and the story is very well known to us all. Jesus concludes the story with a question which is interesting because in doing so Jesus answered the last question that the Lawyer asked.

In truth, the Lawyer answered his own questions about the neighbour and about the eternal life. The Lawyer said that to have eternal life one has to do what God would do – i.e. have compassion – the same thing that is found in the Law. Jesus tells him that one has to work for eternal life: “Go, and do the same yourself”. To love God is to be united to Him and let Him work in each and every one of us!

Lord, it seems presumptuous for us to do what you do, but You made us according to your own image. Give us the strength to be able to be so united to You so You can act in us. Thank you Lord!”


Fr. Jesmond Pawley, OFM Conv.

(Permission to reproduce on this site by Fr. Jesmond, St. Patrick’s RC Church, Waterloo )

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