• Gabriel von Wendt

Luke 10:25-37 - The Ivory Tower

There was a scholar of the law who stood up to test Jesus and said, "Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" Jesus said to him, "What is written in the law? How do you read it?" He said in reply, "You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself." He replied to him, "You have answered correctly; do this and you will live."
But because he wished to justify himself, he said to Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?" Jesus replied, "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."

Are you familiar with the expression about “living in an ivory tower”? Cambridge Dictionary defines it as not knowing about or wanting to avoid the ordinary and unpleasant things that happen in people's lives. People inclined to speculative thinking, prone to perfectionism and appreciative for aesthetics seem to be especially vulnerable to that temptation. When considering truth, ideals or happiness they prove to have especially wide horizons; but, strangely enough, their view becomes reductively narrow when dealing with the immediate world around them. That _immediate world_, it consists mainly of persons. Defining happiness from within an ivory tower usually commits that crucial mistake: defining happiness without my neighbor.

"Not knowing about or wanting to avoid the ordinary and unpleasant things that happen in people's lives."

Such is the situation in today’s Gospel. The scholar gets it alright when talking on the theoretical level of getting to the fullness of life. He knows the destination of the road but Jesus needs to teach him - and not only him - how to find where to place the next step. The scholar suffers of "spiritual hyperopia."


Refocus your eyesight today so that you see how to love here and now. Discover the practical steps to happiness before you in the light of the destination that you already know theoretically. The Holy Spirit empowers you to see in the trivial things of daily life shimmering facets of the coming glory. Do not delve into abstract ideals alone. Avoid farsightedness today by focussing on the neighbor who needs you. Do not “see him and pass by on the opposite side.” Rather, “care for him.”