Twelfth Sunday After Pentecost:
FALLEN AMONG THIEVES

by Rev. Francis Cuthbert Doylem O.S.B., 1896

"Who is my neighbour?"--St. LUKE x. 29.


Our Lord rarely refused to answer any question put to Him, even when those who asked it did so for the express purpose of puzzling, or of entrapping Him. In the present instance, a lawyer stood up among the audience which Jesus had just ceased to address, and asked Him that momentous question, which men, whose souls have been moved to their profoundest depths, will ask with a beating heart: 'What must I do to possess eternal life?' But in his case, anxiety to learn had not urged him to make the inquiry. Being himself a master in Israel, versed in the law and the prophets, and by his very calling bound to explain that law to others, he knew perfectly well what it required from those who would win the reward of heaven. He had, therefore, put the question in a spirit of captious criticism; and moreover, had probably done so with an air of conscious superiority, much in the same way as that in which a professor might interrogate one of his pupils.

Our Lord turned to him, and at once put him in his place; for, with that look of authority which made men call Him Master, He said to him: 'What is written in the law? How readest thou?' The lawyer gave the answer glibly enough, and Jesus commended him for it, just as a professor might applaud a little boy who had answered well: 'Thou hast answered right.' But He added with great significance: 'This do, and thou shalt live.' The lawyer at once saw the awkwardness of his position, and began to feel that instead of catechising, he had himself been catechised. Though somewhat crestfallen, he determined, if possible, to cover his defeat. He therefore asked: 'And who is my neighbour, whom the law says that I must love as my own self?'

Then Our Lord told of that man who, in going from Jerusalem to Jericho, fell among thieves, who robbed him, and left him wounded and senseless by the wayside. He put before His hearers the conduct of three men who travelled the same road and saw the unhappy man lying in his helpless and dangerous state. The priest and the levite looked at him, and passed on; but a Samaritan, between whose people and the Jews there existed a feud, embittered by the acrimony of religious controversy, saw him, and did not pass on. He knelt beside him; dressed and bound up his wounds; set him upon his own beast; and, taking him to an inn, paid for his careful tendance till he should have recovered. Then came from the lips of Christ another question: 'Which of these three men was neighbour to him that fell among thieves?' The lawyer answered: 'He that showed him mercy.' 'Go, therefore,' said Jesus to him, 'and do thou in like manner.'

From this you may learn that every one without exception is your neighbour, and has a claim upon your charity, whenever he is overtaken by any misfortune, and stands in need of help. Hence you may be called upon, even at College, to act the part of the good Samaritan. For though you may seem to be fenced in on every side from evil influences, yet, even at College, a boy, metaphorically speaking, may fall among thieves. For at College, as well as in the great world without, there is a way which leads from Jerusalem, the city of God, to the devil. It is infested with robbers, who lie in wait to shed innocent blood; and woe unto him who falls among them! The entrance to that slippery descent is idleness; and to fall among an idle set at College, is to take the first stride along that way of blood. For idle boys, in consequence of their idleness, are generally at war with their masters, who must, in conscience, use every effort to exact from them, by enforced industry, the work which a sense of duty should make them perform. Hence it is that the idle usually become discontented, and given to grumbling. They rebel, when they can do so with impunity, and systematically disobey even the direct and express orders of Superiors. When boys are in these dispositions, they are ripe for any work which the devil may think fit to suggest to them; and, therefore, we said that the idle, and those who consort with them, have taken the first stride along the way of destruction.

Again; a new boy may fall among a few wicked companions, who will dare to ridicule, and laugh at the piety which he has learnt, and brought with him, from his holy and happy home. Worst of all, he may fall into the company of those who will instil the poison that has made their own hearts desolate into his soul, which till that moment has lived in happy ignorance of its baneful existence. By these wretches he may be treated contumeliously, or robbed and wounded, or killed outright.

Your first duty, therefore, is one of charity towards yourself. Enter not upon that way of idleness which leads to the devil. Shun the company of those who either make light of piety, or speak sarcastically of those who practise it. Have the courage not to fear their words. What are these but the contemptible babblings of the most worthless boys in the School? Above all things avoid, just as you would avoid a leper, those who are corrupt in their words or in their actions. Should you discover any of this stamp among your companions, do not, for a single moment, hesitate to make them known to your Superior. He will eject them from his innocent flock, lest the plague which has stricken them should infect all the little ones intrusted to his care.

Your next duty is to imitate the example of the good Samaritan, with regard to those who may chance to have fallen among thieves. There are occasions when this maybe done, not only by those who are in the upper schools, but by even the youngest boy in the College. It is, however, from the elder boys that this work of charity is chiefly to be expected. You may, perhaps, have noticed some boy, who on his first coming to College had about him all the freshness and the fragrance of happy innocence. After a time you may, perhaps, remark that a great change has come over him. There is not the same light in his eyes, nor the same easy frankness in his manner. He has become a slouching, slovenly fellow, idle and mischievous, and afraid to look you in the face. There is about him an air of recklessness, a hardness of manner, a defiant boldness, which it is not pleasant to see.

If you take the trouble to search for the cause, you will probably find that he has fallen among a bad set: he has 'fallen among thieves.' Do not pass him by and leave him to his fate, as an incorrigible scapegrace! Do not say: 'It is no affair of mine; let Superiors look to it.' It is your affair. He is your neighbour. He is more--he is your little brother! One word from you may save him. Speak it, and there will be joy among the Angels of God! We have known cases of this kind, and have seen the wonderful change wrought in boys by a single kind word, or by a hand laid with friendly pressure upon the shoulder. There is a flash of gratitude from their eyes; there are a few faltering words, and then the flood of sorrow, long pent up in the heart, breaks forth.

Follow up this first victory by persistent, patient kindness, and you will bring back to Jesus Christ many a soul which would otherwise have perished miserably by the wayside, after being wounded by the hands of robbers. Especially let your kindness and your charity be poured out upon those boys who are not well-favoured, nor polished in manner, nor naturally lovable. You will oftentimes find that there is more true gold in them than in those who are externally more attractive. See in them only the children of Jesus Christ, and remember those blessed words of His: 'What ye did to the least of these little ones, ye did it to Me.'






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