Tag Archives: faith

Who Is My Neighbor: the Quality of Mercy

A young man in his blue linen cloak paces the dimly-lit room, then looks out the window at the crowd gathering in the village square. His ambitions exceed his current station, but he expects that to change after today. He is a lawyer, which is to say he occupies a lower rung in the religious order. He steps down the mud brick stairs of his house to the courtyard, then walks through the arch and onto the street.

Shielding his eyes against the sun, now glowing white in a molten sky, he can clearly see the plaza. There are more people than he expected. Surprises irritate the young man, but he consoles himself that the larger audience suits his purpose. He walks briskly to the village square–he always moves briskly–thinking over his scheme to confront, and perhaps trap, the itinerant rabbi from distant Nazareth. His superiors cannot fail to be impressed.

Near the well, Jesus is talking to a small circle of men. As the lawyer approaches the crowd, he feels his hands sweating. Moving through the throng, he strides up to face the rabbi. After a modest  introduction, he asks, “How can I attain eternal life, Teacher?” He expects that Jesus’ answer will offend the orthodox and prove his undoing. The crowd is silenced by the lawyer’s boldness, just as he had hoped.

Jesus’  expression takes no note of the lawyer’s sarcastic tone and his voice is mild as he  turns the question back on his inquisitor, offering him a dialogue. The lawyer knows the law by rote and so he confidently quotes its letter. Jesus’ response, now provocative, exposes a chink in the lawyer’s armor. The lawyer tries an evasion. “Who is my neighbor, that I am to love?”

The crowd waits for their teacher to take up the challenge, perhaps with a sermon like the ones they have heard him deliver. Jesus smiles thinly, a knowing smile, but in his eyes there is a flash of anger. He has faced so many of these inquisitions–meant to trap him into some blasphemy–over the last year. The rekindled memories leave him inwardly seething. He has thought about the answer to this question, or one very like it, through cool, dark velvet nights with only the flickering fire as companion, and so He retains his composure.

Masking his anger with an even voice, Jesus tells a tale of two pious men who pass by a wounded stranger on the robber-plagued Jericho road, not even approaching him to see if alive or dead; and of the third traveler who stops to assist the man, bathing his wounds in oil and taking him to an inn for shelter. Jesus faces the lawyer, but the crowd is his real audience–and when mentioning the solicitous man, He calls him a Samaritan. Even his close followers glance at each other–did he really say Samaritan? According to Jewish tradition, Samaritans are despised outcasts; there is bitterness and enmity between the two peoples. A Samaritan as role model does not sit agreeably with the crowd, but Jesus had warned his followers that he had come to bring a sword.

His parable completed, Jesus asks the lawyer, “Which of these three, do you think, sir, was neighbor to him that fell among the thieves?” In the telling of the tale, his anger has faded; his voice is almost serene.

The lawyer’s arrogance has wilted in the Light. “He that showed mercy,” he replies, leaving unspoken the distasteful name, Samaritan.

Jesus’ voice is a friendly invitation. “Go and do likewise.”

As the Samaritan ministered to the injured man, so Jesus discerned the wounded spirit of the lawyer inside the cynical shell. He treated his foe with acceptance, but with the parable challenged him to think anew. In so doing, He placed before his audience a gift, allowing them to see, if they chose, that the quality of mercy is for outcasts as well as members of the tribe, for the reproachful as well as the faithful.

Sometimes a story’s meaning is inside, like a kernel in a husk; and other times the story’s most eloquent message is revealed by the manner of the narrator.

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For Peace Comes Dropping Slow

And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight’s all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet’s wings.

William B. Yeats, Lake Isle of Innisfree

The Unexpected Discovery

The first gulp from the glass of natural sciences will turn you into an atheist, but at the bottom of the glass God is waiting for you.
–Werner Heisenberg

An amazing guy, who was one of principal creators of quantum mechanics; he  published his famous Uncertainty Principle at the ripe old age of 26.

WPC: A Continuing Journey, Keep on Your Own Path

Participating in the Weekly Photo Challenge has motivated me to re-discover many familiar sights in my locale of Michigan–and to share them with many newfound friends.

For me, a landscape does not exist in its own right, since its appearance changes at every moment; but the surrounding atmosphere brings it to life – the light and the air which vary continually.

Claude Monet

Photo Challenge;  Favorites   

 

Newburgh Lake, Michigan

Newburgh Lake, Michigan

I dream of painting and then I paint my dream.
Vincent Van Gogh

Pigeon River Forest, Michigan

Every path but your own is the path of fate.  Keep on your own track then.

–Henry David Thoreau

Sunday Solzhenitsyn: Inside Every Heart

If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

Photo Challenge: Place of Still Waters

He leads me beside still waters.
Psalm 23

Three views from a quiet cove along northern Michigan’s Au Sable River, as its swift current slows on the journey to Lake Huron.

Photo Challenge:  Place  

 

Au Sable River, Michigan

Au Sable River, Michigan

au sable river, michigan

Au Sable River, Michigan

Photo Challenge: Magical Places…to the Invisible

Magical places are always beautiful and deserve to be contemplated.  Always stay on the bridge between the invisible and the visible
—Paulo Coehlo

Photo Challenge: Places  

Magical light in the wilderness forest of Michigan creates a tranquil harbor for the soul, north of the tempestuous Tacquahmenon River.

Tacquahmenon Park, Michigan

Tacquahmenon River, Michigan