Larry the Cable Guy is known for his motto, “Get ‘er done.” It is the motto of “doers”. Doers get the job done. Doing is goal-oriented and many times goal-fixated. There is a job that needs to get done and the doers are so focused on getting that job done that nothing else matters. How the job gets done is immaterial as long as the job gets done. The doer sees everything else along the way as a distraction and an obstacle that needs to be avoided. “Get out of my way and let me get this job done.” Doing usually looks for a reward or pay-off for getting the job done. Once the doer has finished the job then he gets paid. Often we need doers because we need to get the job done, one way or the other.
In the gospel of Luke, Jesus meets a scholar of the law that asks a question about eternal life. He is a doer and asks his question in a way that focuses on getting to the goal of eternal life. “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Lk 10,25) Doers like to have an instruction manual to help them understand the “how to” of life. Jesus responds to this question with a simple answer, “Follow the directions.” He refers the scholar of the Law to the written Law, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” The scholar of the Law of course knows the answer well for he has studied the Law all of his life: “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus tells him simply, “Do this and you will live.” That is the answer for a doer. Just follow the directions and you will get it done.
However, this scholar is looking for something more, or he is familiar with the limits of the Law and he is trying to trip Jesus up. We are told that he is seeking to justify himself. So he asks him, “And who is my neighbor?” A machine can be programmed to get a job done and to follow all the steps that will lead to a positive result but how can a machine discern a question like, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus is not disturbed by this slippery question and he tells the well-known parable of the Good Samaritan. He places at the center of his parable the problem of human suffering. All of us are in this situation at one time or another and Jesus himself has come into the world to embrace human suffering and experience it to its limits. The first two persons to confront this troubling situation are doers, a priest and a Levite. They have a job to do, a worthy and respectable job, and they are focused on getting their job done. They cannot be bothered by helping a person in distress for it will render them ritually impure and unable to get their job done. They pass by on the opposite side of the road and perhaps take no notice of the person who is suffering at the side of the road.
The problem of human suffering is not an easy fix for doers because they can never get to the place where the job is done. In the face of suffering, one can never do enough because there are always more that need help. There are always people who are suffering in the world and it seems like the job will never get done. “The poor you will always have with you, and whenever you wish you can do good to them, but you will not always have me.” (Mk 14,7) Jesus subtly turns this question around and refocuses the answer. Perhaps it is not just a matter of “doing” alone that is required of us but rather, a matter of “being”. Perhaps the question is not “what must I do” but rather, “what sort of person must I be.” The third person in Jesus’ parable is a Samaritan traveler who sees the person in their suffering and “was moved with compassion at the sight.” The person that is compassionate and merciful is the one who is like God the Father and his son Jesus, who “is the image of the invisible God.” (Col 1,15)
The compassionate person is moved deep down in his interior being by human suffering. It doesn’t matter who is suffering, the compassionate person must show him mercy and love. Only the compassionate and merciful person truly fulfills the Law to “love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind.” He is the one who knows the Word of the Law “is something very near to you, already in your mouths and in your hearts; you have only to carry it out.” (Deut 30,14) The Law is not imposed from the outside but is written interiorly on the heart. The true neighbor is the one who treats suffering people with mercy and compassion. “Be merciful, just as also your Father is merciful.” (Lk 6,36) “Go and do likewise.” The true disciple is the one who has the merciful and compassionate heart of Jesus and who loves, not because of who the other person is, but because of who he is in Christ. That is the way to holiness and that is the way to eternal life.
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