The Gospel passage in a recent Sunday liturgy was Luke 10:25-37, the parable of the Good Samaritan.
The point of this story, as is the point of the entirety of the gospel, is love of neighbor.
We will not be judged on how many services we attend or how well we chant but on how we treated our neighbor.
All of the people in the story, including the priest, walked by the injured man and did not stop to help. Some looked and moved on quickly, some looked and changed sides of the street, and others did not look at all.
Jesus tells us in Matthew 25:40, “Inasmuch as you did it to the least of these My brethren, you did it to me.”
He had just concluded a conversation about the hungry, the sick and those in prison, and the “righteous” asked him when they saw him hungry, sick or in prison. That was his response.
As an Orthodox Christian, I believe all of humanity has been created in the image and likeness of God. Humanity is, in a very real sense, an icon of Christ.
When we look into the eyes of our neighbor, we are looking into the eyes of Christ – so when we walk past that person in need, we are walking past Christ.
The Samaritan in the story showed the very love of Christ that we need to show to our neighbor.
The bandages, oil and wine that the Samaritan used to help the person in need are indeed images of the sacramental life: the garment of baptism that removes the wounds of sin, the oil of Chrismation that gives us new life in the Holy Spirit, the communion of the divine blood that leads to eternal life.
He placed the man on his own animal, a representation of Christ bearing our sins in his own body.
The inn that he took the man to reveals the church, in which the care of Christ is received. How can we turn our backs on that?
Love of neighbor is not easy, but then neither is the Christian life.
The Christian life is not just going to church on Sunday. It is caring and loving your neighbor and those who are least.
A few years back, Metropolitan Jonah of the Orthodox Christian Church in America asked in a speech where the Orthodox hospitals, homeless shelters and soup kitchens are. Yes, they exist on a small scale, but they need to exist in a much larger and visible way.
We need to be the hands of Christ and bring the bandages, oil and wine to a world that needs us.
If we do not, I submit the faith of the Orthodox is a dead and useless faith, for as St. James tells us, “Faith without works is a dead faith!”