In the parable of the Good Samaritan, we hear about the road between Jerusalem and Jericho. It was a dangerous road to travel in Biblical times. It still is. In less than 20 miles, the road drops over 3200 feet in altitude as you go down the mountains. Along the way there are many places where robbers can hide, jumping out to rob the passers-by.
St. Augustine studied this parable and took a very allegorical and spiritual view of it. He saw it as a story of Christ restoring mankind. Thus, Jerusalem symbolizes Heaven, where the Lord God resides and where true worship is celebrated. Jericho is a symbol of the world. Notice in our parable that the man who falls prey to the robbers is going down from Jerusalem to Jericho. The man is going away from the city of God and walking into the world. St. Augustine saw this man as Adam, that 1st man who was created to live in communion with God, but through his disobedience has fallen along the road.
The robbers are the forces of evil who tempted Adam, leading him to sin. The robbers have stripped him of his immortality and the sanctifying grace of God’s friendship. He is left for dead in his sin. The priest who comes upon the man in the parable represents the Law, while the Levite represents the Prophets. Neither the Law nor the Prophets can save the man and restore him to new life. Then comes the Samaritan. St. Augustine saw the Samaritan as being Jesus, the Savior. The Son of God comes to restore fallen Adam who is left naked and in the death of sin. Oil and wine are poured into the wounds of Adam; “oil to make his face shine” as Scripture says, and wine “which gladdens the heart of Man.”
Then the Samaritan places the man on his own donkey, just as Jesus bore all our sins and suffered and died on the Cross for our behalf. The Samaritan takes the man to an inn and cares for him through the night. The inn represents the Church, which continues the ministry of Christ, caring for wounded humanity, trying to lift sinners out of the death of sin into the light and life of Christ Jesus. The two coins which the Samaritan leaves at the inn are symbolic of the outer form of the sacraments and the inner treasury of grace that we receive from those sacraments. Finally, as the Samaritan promises to return, so does Jesus promise to return again, in glory.
In looking at this parable in this way, St Augustine shifts our focus. St. Augustine helps us see that we are the ones stripped, beaten, and left for dead by our sins. It is well that we consider this parable from this point of view because we must first recognize this essential need of ours to be saved and redeemed, our own need for Christ Jesus. Once we recognize our own nakedness, our own poverty, our own helplessness, our own sin, our own need, only then will we recognize the Presence of the Good Samaritan — Jesus.
The Jews had to learn that the Law and Prophets could not save them. They needed to see Jesus as Savior. Today we need to see that science & technology, power & fame — cannot bring us eternal happiness either. We need Jesus. We must allow Jesus to place our brokenness, our sin, on His own beast of burden — His own body broken for us — so that He can bring us to the inn along the road, which is the Catholic Church, where we can receive the sacraments — which are the oil and wine poured into our wounds.