Welcome to Saint Mary’s Church, Harborne, Birmingham, UK.

Order of St. Augustine.

Archdiocese of Birmingham

“Before all else, live together in harmony, being of one mind and one heart on the way to God.”  St. Augustine.

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                                       Fr. Bernard O’Connor’s Homily

                                                  for Sunday 14th July

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Good Samaritan.

Luke 10: 25-37.

The parable of the Good Samaritan is the best known of all the parables of Jesus.  Even many people of no religious belief know about the Good Samaritan, even if they are not familiar with all the details.

It is a perfect example of how, if we are given a philosophical explanation of being a good neighbour, it may leave little impression, whereas we never forget a story, and this is a perfect example of what a brilliant story-teller Jesus is.

The lawyer in this case asks what is the crucial question:  WHO IS MY NEIGHBOUR?

The story illustrates beyond doubt that it is the Samaritan who is the good neighbour, the one who recognises the stricken man as his neighbour.

That he is a Samaritan would have been a dig at the common belief.  The Samaritans were looked down on by the orthodox Jews because of their history of inter-marriage with foreign invaders.  They had contaminated the purity of their inherited religion.

Whereas it was the pillars of their religious belief, the priest and the levite who passed by on the other side of the road, so as not to be rendered  impure by the body of what might have been a dead man.

We are left then with the question ‘Where do I draw the line?  Of whom can I say, They are nothing to do with me.’  The answer Jesus gives is ‘There is no line.  There is nobody  excluded.’

The lawyer in the story would have described the non-Jews as ‘dogs’, an expression that Jesus himself used when confronted by the Syro- Phoenecian woman.

Likewise, we can have an instinctive antipathy to foreigners, with their different language, different culture, different customs.

We can be hostile to immigrants and feel in some way threatened by them.  It is for governments to decide on their being received into this country.  But they are here, they are at least initially destitute through no fault of their own.

There are the homeless that we see sitting at the side of the pavement, especially at night-time as they endeavour to bed down with whatever simple covering they can find.

The list could go on.

What can we do?  All these people are our neighbour, each one our brother or sister.

However, we must realise that we cannot solve all the problems of the world, even of the world about us, nor should we feel guilty because we cannot.

Even Jesus was not able to feed all the hungry or to heal all the sick.

I have often quoted Mother Teresa’s reply to the desperate aid worker who asked her ‘How can we possibly feed all these millions of hungry people?’ to which she replied ‘One by one’

Some times in our organised world, it may be more helpful to contribute to a reputable organisation that cares for and provides for the needy, but always we endeavour to show respect and to remember the proverb quoted by Jesus, ‘Do to others what you would like them to do to you.’

There is another aspect to loving our neighbour that is relevant to our time, in a way that would not have been so to the same extent in Jesus’ time.

We are asked today to support the Apostleship of the Sea, an organisation that greets and welcomes sailors who come ashore for some time at our various ports, knowing nobody,  a stranger in a strange land.

It reminds us of how dependent we are on these men and women, who staff the ships in various capacities that bring to us from overseas, often from the other end of the globe, what we need. 

They endure  what can be an uncomfortable and often dangerous voyage to bring to our shores what our own country cannot provide, and which enrich our lifestyle.

There are also the farmers overseas who produce many of the foods that we enjoy, the coffee and the tea, the oranges and bananas and so much of the beautiful food that we see in such abundance in our supermarkets.

There are those who produce fashionable items of clothing overseas, cheaply, cheaply because they are poorly paid.

All of these people and many more are our neighbours and we rely on them.  They are members of an inter-dependent human family.  We may feel overwhelmed at first by the realisation of the billions of people throughout the world who make up our human family.  Rather we feel grateful that by peaceful cooperation we can together bring about a better world, each supporting and helping to provide for the others.

There are organisations that campaign for their just treatment, which we might endeavour to support.  We endeavour never to pass by on the other side, as if it were no business of ours.

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