A lot of the sons of Levi lived in Jericho and they knew that walking to Jerusalem was a strenuous day’s work. Five hours if you were in good shape with 3,000 feet of ascent.
So it was a road crowded with ministers of the temple: with singers, musicians, gatekeepers, keepers of the Treasury, and even Priests. Priests went up to serve the Temple five times each year, and, so it was, that Jesus’ parable to the inquisitive lawyer includes a priest going up the road to Jerusalem.
The priest sees a half-dead man up ahead of him. He sees the man and he walks to the other side of the road. Why?
It seems strange, for the priest knew the words of the prophet Isaiah: "Help those in trouble! Then your light will shine out from the darkness, and the... the Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy you with all good things, and keep you healthy too…." (Isaiah 58:10-11). He knew. But he also knew that the only way to tell if the man was dead or alive was to touch him and if he touched a dead man he would be rendered unclean and unfit for the temple service he had been walking to for the past several hours. However, if he just looked at him from across the road and presumed he was dead, he could in good conscience walk on without any further complications. Isaiah didn’t say anything about burying the dead.
So the Priest, with the assurance of a liturgist or canon lawyer, had the perfect solution. Just walk on the other side of the road.
Right behind him is a Levite, also headed up the road to Temple service, who follows the priest's example. Each looked and each crossed the street
Now take it from the point of view of the half-dead man still over there on the other side of the street. Is there anything worse than being set-upon by robbers and beaten half to death?
Yes. To be beaten half to death and then have a priest approach, gawk at you and cross the street to the other side, turning his face from what a pathetic sight I am.
It must have been how the Lord, fully human and fully divine, felt upon the cross. They all ran away, save the beloved disciple and his mother. They all ran away, leaving only the jeering crowds to drown out the sound of her weeping. They as far away as they could.
And perhaps that was the sixth wound of his passion…the wound that cut deeper than Longinus’ lance. To be abandoned, left to die, alone.
And perhaps that is what Jesus meant when he told us that whatever we do to the least of these we do to him. For when we look into the eyes of the poor, the weak or the suffering man, we see the eyes of the crucified, who lives in each one who is broken, alone and forgotten.
So, don't be that priest or that levite, rushing by the Lord as we waits for you, half-dead and beaten by the side of the road. He waits for you to seek him with the same fervor with which you adore his Body and Blood upon that Altar. He waits for you to cross the street. He waits on the other side.