Salvation Case Studies: The Good Samaritan

Our Lord taught us that a good Samaritan can get into Heaven, while a bad Pharisee cannot.

{5:20} For I say to you, that unless your justice has surpassed that of the scribes and the Pharisees you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.

{10:29} But since he wanted to justify himself, he said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
{10:30} Then Jesus, taking this up, said: “A certain man descended from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he happened upon robbers, who now also plundered him. And inflicting him with wounds, they went away, leaving him behind, half-alive.
{10:31} And it happened that a certain priest was descending along the same way. And seeing him, he passed by.
{10:32} And similarly a Levite, when he was near the place, also saw him, and he passed by.
{10:33} But a certain Samaritan, being on a journey, came near him. And seeing him, he was moved by mercy.
{10:34} And approaching him, he bound up his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them. And setting him on his pack animal, he brought him to an inn, and he took care of him.
{10:35} And the next day, he took out two denarii, and he gave them to the proprietor, and he said: ‘Take care of him. And whatever extra you will have spent, I will repay to you at my return.’
{10:36} Which of these three, does it seem to you, was a neighbor to him who fell among the robbers?”
{10:37} Then he said, “The one who acted with mercy toward him.” And Jesus said to him, “Go, and act similarly.”

We must love God above all else, and love our neighbor as ourselves. These are the two great Commandments. The Ten Commandments and all the rest of the moral law is found within those two Commandments.

The priest and Levite did not help the injured man, because they were on their way to a feast at Jerusalem. If they touched blood, they would be ritually unclean and therefore unable to participate in the feast. So they were Jews who were following the rules. But they did not love their neighbor.

The Samaritan violated the rule in Sacred Scripture about touching blood. But he fulfilled the commandment to love his neighbor, and thereby also fulfilled his commandment to love God. For his neighbor is made in the image of God. If you hate your neighbor, you cannot truly love God. And if you love your neighbor, you at least implicitly love God. This implicit love of God was taught by Christ in the parable of the Returning King:

{25:34} Then the King shall say to those who will be on his right: ‘Come, you blessed of my Father. Possess the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.
{25:35} For I was hungry, and you gave me to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave me to drink; I was a stranger, and you took me in;
{25:36} naked, and you covered me; sick, and you visited me; I was in prison, and you came to me.’
{25:37} Then the just will answer him, saying: ‘Lord, when have we seen you hungry, and fed you; thirsty, and given you drink?

They had no idea that by loving their neighbor, a love expressed in works of mercy, they were loving God. Yet the King, Jesus Christ, tells them that this was sufficient for eternal life. It is not that works earn Heaven, but that works of love and mercy testify to one’s interior full cooperation with actual graces and one’s possession of the state of grace.

Now consider the Samaritan. Jews were to Samaritans as Catholics are to Protestants. The Samaritans were Jews who lived and believed an altered version of Judaism. They did not worship in Jerusalem. They had different beliefs on faith and morals, much like Protestants. So the story of the good Samaritan is Jesus teaching us that Protestants, whose religious beliefs contain some error, yet who love their neighbor, go to Heaven. But Catholics who follow all the rules and who have the right beliefs must also love their neighbor, or they will not go to Heaven. We must not be like the Pharisees, who abandoned love and mercy to follow all the rules and regulations.

But I must also point out that the moral law is entirely based on the love of God and neighbor. Every sin is contrary to love. So the rules and regulations to which I refer are not rules against sin, but things like liturgical form, customs, human regulations, tradition with a small ‘t’, etc. We must not be like some (not all) of the conservative or traditionalist Catholics, who rant about every small point of liturgical form, but have no interest in teaching morality or doing works of mercy. They treat persons with contempt who prefer a different form of the Mass, or who disagree about the externals of worship. This behavior is contrary to the teaching of Christ in the parable of the good Samaritan.

Case Example: the Good Protestant

A person is baptized into a Protestant denomination, and lives a life of love of God and neighbor. He never commits an actual mortal sin. He declines to convert to Catholicism out of invincible ignorance, so that objective mortal sin is not also an actual mortal sin. He entered the state of grace at baptism and never departed from that state by an actual mortal sin. So when he dies, in the state of grace, he certainly will have eternal life in Heaven, after a brief stay in Purgatory where he will learn the full truth of Christianity found in Catholicism.

Ronald L. Conte Jr.
Roman Catholic theologian and translator of the Catholic Public Domain Version of the Bible.

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5 Responses to Salvation Case Studies: The Good Samaritan

  1. Fr Joseph says:

    Thank you for that reflection and how true it is! There are many loving and God fearing non Catholics as well who will enter the Kingdom of heaven before some of us. Also, the controversies leading up to and being perpetuated by the “Open Letter” recalls to my mind the prophecy of Our Lady at Akita when she said that there would cardinals against cardinals, etc. Now more than ever should we pray for the Pope and also for the bishops before “the love of many grows cold” (Mt 24:12); a schism now would create even more confusion and lead many more people astray…

  2. Matt Z. says:

    Those that rant about liturgical form are usually loving people who love God and neighbor, but not always. This is what i believe Pope Francis is talking about when he means being rigid. People that forget about the love of God and the love of neighbor. I’m still reading your book on Salvation For Everyone on Kindle, Im almost done, it has made me a better Catholic.

    • Ron Conte says:

      Good. Liturgical form has a place in the scale of values. I greatly dislike liturgical errors and abuses. But I also recognize the validity of these Masses. God has not made the Sacraments or the liturgy fragile. For the sake of our salvation, many different errors still do not take away the saving power of the mercy of God found in the Sacraments. So Mass and Confession (etc.) are not easily made invalid.

  3. Matt Z. says:

    Thanks for the response Ron, that was well said.

  4. King Robert the Bruce says:

    Excellent read again Ron you are absolutely correct.

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