Who are the “thrones, dominions, principalities and powers” mentioned in today’s second reading?
Saint Paul is listing four varieties of angels who have differing roles in serving God. Angels are purely spiritual creatures who were made through and for Christ. They have minds for knowing and freewill for choosing—this makes them persons and capable of love. The angels always glorify God and serve in his saving plans for other creatures. Sometimes they are His messengers, like Gabriel at the Annunciation. Some serve as guardians; over whole nations or even the least children (see Daniel 10 & Matthew 18:10.) Archangels and our guardian angels are thought to belong to the lowest levels in the hierarchy of angels—well below the power of the ranks that Saint Paul mentioned—yet we do well to remember to pray for their help. Even the least of our angelic protectors is more powerful than any flesh and blood foe. Even the highest demons who act against God’s will can be overcome by humble angels, as the archangel Saint Michael’s victory over the devil proves (see Revelation 12:7-9.)
In our Gospel, Jesus is questioned by a “scholar of the Law.” What does that title tell us about that man?
He was an expert on the Old Covenant Law of Moses and its 613 commandments. The scribes in Jesus’ day were regarded as scholars of the Law but tended to be hostile toward Christ.
A “Levite” passed on the opposite side. Who were the Levites?
These were men of the tribe of Levi (though not descended from Aaron like the Jewish priests) who were appointed to assist in the worship and rituals at the Temple in Jerusalem. A commandment in the Law of Moses required Levites (and priests) to avoid contact with dead bodies in order to remain ritually pure, which is probably why they passed by on the opposite side of the road.
The Samaritan showed mercy. Who were the “Samaritans?”
The Samaritans were a mixed-race people descended from intermarriage between Israelites and Assyrian colonists. They dwelt in Samaria, the region between Galilee and Judea. Samaritans worshiped the same God as the Jews and kept many of the same religious practices, but they rejected the priesthood at Mt. Zion and worshiped instead on their own Mt. Gerizim. The enmity between the Jews and Samaritans was so great that Jews traveling between Galilee and Judea often crossed the Jordan to bypass the land of Samaira entirely.