Monday, November 11, 2013

You too can be Christ

Ferdinand Hodler, The Good Samaritan

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Matthew 28:19

Who is Christ talking to? Surely, not to me, I’m just an ordinary Christian layman. I can’t baptize anyone. He must be talking to the apostles and their successors, the bishops and priests of the Church.
I wouldn’t know how to make disciples. I hardly know how to be one myself. He can’t possibly be talking to me. This is the Church’s responsibility.

Well, then, who or what is the Church?

Everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.
Matthew 7:24-27

Does it really matter, then, to ask who or what is the Church when we have words like these from the Son of God Himself? Can anyone put Christ’s words into practice for us? Can anyone be blamed if we ourselves do not put them into practice? We may not all be called to be apostles, that is, bishops, priests, deacons, evangelists and other professors of the Word. What is there left for us to do? Have all the important works been taken away and given to these men who are so much closer to Christ?

Jesus said: A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?

The expert in the law replied, ‘The one who had mercy on him.’

Jesus told him, ‘Go and do likewise.’
Luke 10:30-37

So, we are not bishops, priests and deacons. They’ve been given the all important work of going out and making disciples of all nations, and baptizing them. That’s not our call. We can’t be expected to go out of our way and do such extraordinary things. But what about the people that we don’t go out to, but who come to us, or who are placed in our path?

The Church fathers take the parable of the Good Samaritan, quoted above, and they tell us some of its meanings. They don’t tell us who the priest and the Levite are, but they do tell us the identities of the Samaritan, the traveler, the innkeeper, and the inn.

The Samaritan, they say, is Christ. The traveler beaten and robbed and left on the road to die is every man in need of salvation. The inn is the Church, and the innkeeper is the ministers of the Church.

Christ is he who does not pass by on the other side, avoiding the inconvenience of helping the wounded man placed in his path. We may not be innkeepers—clergy—that is true. But anyone of us can minister to the one God has placed in our path.

You may not be a priest or Levite either.

But you too can be Christ.

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