- The Washington Times - Monday, November 8, 2004

The following are excerpts of a sermon recently given by the Rev. Victor Potapov at the Russian Orthodox Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in the District.

Let us all be good Samaritans. Each and every day, Providence brings us into contact with people who are experiencing troubles and require our attention and comfort.

What to do? What must we do to adequately fulfill the commandment of love when there are multitudes of needy people? Is it really possible to devote our time and resources and consistently behave as the good Samaritan did in Christ’s parable? Is it really possible for average people such as you and me to sacrifice of ourselves and our precious time to take into our hearts the sorrow and pain of strangers?

Perhaps this sentiment of one’s limitations was why the priest and Levite passed by without helping the poor wounded man they encountered on the road to Jericho. It is certainly true that sometimes we simply lack the time and the wherewithal to deal with our own problems, let alone to get involved with the problems of others.

The priest and Levite passed by the wounded stranger just as we ourselves ignore the many poor, the homeless, alcoholics and the like that cross our paths.

We pass by other’s problems and worries. We pass by because, perhaps, we have conveniently convinced ourselves that it is simply impossible to come to the assistance of everyone in need. Perhaps it is because we don’t want to part with our money or perhaps because we don’t want to deal with strangers. Finally, because we are too lazy to mobilize the spiritual strength that God has given us or to expend our precious time to show pity to those who so desperately need it.

Our hearts groan with the sight of blood and gore that flows from the movies and news stories we watch on television, and our minds are awash with reports of terrible crimes, violation of human rights, and finally “of wars and rumors of wars” (Matthew 24:6).

All these images have conditioned us to do our utmost to crowd out the unpleasant reality of our earthly existence and, unfortunately, along with this, to ignore those who would dare to hope for or ask for our help in their need.

How easy it is to say: The world has gone mad and I refuse to participate in this madness. I intend to forever close my eyes, ears and mind to the reality that surrounds me, and deal only with the matter of the salvation of my soul and not even try to accomplish the impossible, so to speak — to empty the ocean of suffering with a teaspoon. Why should I try to help the poor, who more often than not are lazy people and winos?

But is this the reality that we want to live in? True, the world is full of lies, hypocrisy, deceit and senseless cruelty, et cetera. But we are followers of Christ, we are His, belong to Him and under no circumstance may we brush aside and ignore the most important condition of our salvation, which is clearly spelled out in the Gospel, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10:27).

Another important point that I would like to make is this: Love of one’s neighbor is measured not only by what we give of our hearts, but also what we give of our wallets. This may sound strangely materialistic, and even to a certain degree cynical, but love does have a certain monetary value. The two dinars which the good Samaritan gave to the innkeeper is part and parcel of the cost of showing pity and love to those who are most in need of these things. This is precisely what St. Paul means when he writes in his Epistle to the Ephesians, “I, therefore, the prisoner for the Lord, urge you to live worthily of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience.”

We all know how almost impossible it is for us to accept into our hearts and souls and our homes a stranger, because such acts of love involve not only a one-time contribution of time and money, but exact a price upon our privacy, our health and perhaps even our lives.

Christ’s commandment of love is indeed an overwhelming thing. Does this mean that it is impossible to fulfill? For egotistic people who care only for themselves, yes. But for those who at least try their best to fulfill God’s commandment of love, but don’t always succeed, there is hope, for it is written: “What is impossible for men, is possible for God.” O Lord our God, help us to be good Samaritans! Amen.

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