“A man fell victim to robbers as he went down from Jerusalem to Jericho.  They stripped and beat him and went off leaving him half-dead.  A priest happened to be going down that road, but when he saw him, he passed by on the opposite side.  Likewise a Levite came to the place, and when he saw him, he passed by on the opposite side.  But a Samaritan traveler who came upon him was moved with compassion at the sight. He approached the victim, poured oil and wine over his wounds and bandaged them.  Then he lifted him up on his own animal, took him to an inn and cared for him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper with the instruction, ‘Take care of him.  If you spend more than what I have given you, I shall repay you on my way back.’ Which of these three, in your opinion, was neighbor to the robbers’ victim?” He answered, “The one who treated him with mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.” – Luke 10:30-37

Many saints and theologians have interpreted this parable as an allegory for Jesus Christ and His Church. Let’s walk through the parable to better understand at least some part of its allegorical meaning.

Who is this traveler, who is the man who fell victim to robbers? The Church Fathers said that the man who fell victim to robbers is Adam who is representative of all humanity. Thus, we are the traveler, we are pilgrims journeying through life.

Who are the robbers, who are the thieves? They are the devil and his apostate angels. All of us at one point or another fall victim to the devil.  We listen to his lies, choosing to be disobedient to God’s will. With sin comes death, and by the sins that we foolishly commit as well as the sins other people commit against us, we are left broken, bruised, and “half-dead.”

But there is good news! Good Samaritan approaches the wounded traveler to help him and save him from his misery. Jesus is the Good Samaritan who wants to bring the half-dead man back to life. He tells us in the Gospel of John, “A thief comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy; I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.” Jesus is not a thief who steals things from us, he is the giver of life who wants us to be full of his life.

One of the most important lines in this parable is the description of the Good Samaritan as being “moved with compassion” at the sight of the wounded man. Throughout the gospels Jesus is repeatedly described as having compassion on the sin and suffering of people. Jesus is “moved with pity” at the sight of lepers and blind men.  He is moved with compassion at the sight of the crowds “because they were troubled and abandoned.” Jesus is the Good Samaritan moved with compassion at the sight of the man who was stripped, beaten, and abandoned.  Jesus doesn’t pass us by, moved with pity he comes to our aid.  

How is the injured man healed? The injured man is healed with wine and oil. It is basic medical practice to first cleanse a wound with some kind of alcohol/antiseptic and then heal it with some sort of ointment. I can’t tell you how many times as a child that I had hydrogen peroxide poured over a scraped knee or elbow, or how many times I had Neosporin applied to minor scrapes and cuts. How is the half-dead man healed?  He is healed with alcohol and ointment, with wine and oil which represent the sacraments of the church. Wine is used in the sacrament of the Eucharist. Oil is used in baptism, confirmation, holy orders, and anointing of the sick. The person wounded by sin is brought back to life, filled with divine grace, through the sacraments of the Catholic Church.

What does the inn represent? The inn is the Catholic Church. It is in the inn that we continue to receive healing and hope through the sacraments.

Who is the innkeeper? The innkeeper would possess the keys to the inn and all of its rooms. The innkeeper could be seen as the pope, as St. Peter and his successors to whom Jesus gave the keys to the kingdom of heaven. More generally the innkeeper could be seen as all clergy who administer the sacraments. Just as the innkeeper is instructed to take care of the wounded man, clergy are instructed to care for the people that God has entrusted to them. The Good Samaritan tells the innkeeper, “I will repay you on my way back.” God will repay/reward those clergy who take care of the injured people brought into the church. But God will also repay/punish those clergy who have not helped to heal others but only made their condition worse. That payment or repayment is not something that necessarily happens here and now, but it is a future event, Jesus “will’ repay.

When will the good Samaritan return? Nobody knows, neither the innkeeper, nor the injured man. Nobody knows when Jesus Christ will come again, but we are called to be ready for the day of his return.

What is the commission? Jesus tells us, “Go and do likewise.” Do not judge a person who has been lied to, stripped of their dignity, or is half-dead.  Rather have compassion on such people and be moved with mercy to help them and lift them up. Do for others what Christ has done for us.  Bring others into the Catholic Church where they can be cared for and filled with divine life until the Good Samaritan comes again.