Fr. Isaac Kalina, O.S.B.
As I was reading this parable of the Good Samaritan (for probably the 500th time), I found myself reflecting in a very smug & almost sinful way, “Oh, thank God, at least I’m one of those that would’ve stopped to help the poor guy that fell among the robbers!” This experience made me more aware that we all create walls & false-communities for ourselves that are limited & restricted. We construct & manufacture false realities that are comprised of people just like me. I haven’t been a bad neighbor – I’m considerate, thoughtful, frequently, I listen to music at a reasonable volume, I don’t litter usually, I smile when I pass people on the street or in the supermarket, I even give others when I’m behind the wheel the right of way, but I don’t enter at all into the lives of these people, even the ones living right next to me or how ‘bout the ones living with me??? Sometimes we don’t know who our neighbors are & we don’t know how to be good ones ourselves. Like the priest & the Levite in today’s gospel, we walk past people all day long without really seeing or hearing them. Then, it dawned on me, that we all literally walk around in a bubble of disconnection & broken relationships. And, there’s no way I can build on those relationships if I isolate myself or withdraw into a bubble of my own making…
You know, there are 9 billion people on this planet. And there’s a common denominator! Remember what that is from adding fractions. The common denominator is…that we all just want to be loved! But there’s a catch; we are waiting. Why? I’m waiting for you to love me first. And you’re waiting for me to love you first. So, what you have are 9 billion people in this world who are all waiting…so who’s doing the loving part???
Jesus’ teaching on the Good Samaritan today challenges & stretches us out like dough. He asks us to be a people who not only know the right answers, but live them day in & day out as well. We’re called to be people who see those who are suffering as our neighbor, those who are poor, grieving & struggling as our neighbor, & have the courage to cross the street to help them. If I really want to know who my neighbor is so as serve him better, I first need to learn to see him or her. This is my first step in becoming a more loving neighbor to those who live right next door or right beside me.
There may not be as many neighbors around as we once thought. Even priests & religious people might not even make the best neighbors. But, unexpected people, Samaritans, the sick or physically challenged, maybe those we consider our worst enemies, might become neighbors. A neighbor helps human beings just because they’re human beings. We revere & respect other people as persons not because of what they’ve done or how good they are but because they’re other persons.
A neighbor not only refers others to where they can receive more or even better help, but personally goes out of their way to serve those in need. The Samaritan today hoisted the man who was all-beaten-up on his own beast & brought him to an inn or motel, where he cared for him. So, you see how being a neighbor is often a dirty, inconvenient & expensive job.
And, didn’t St. Paul remind us that if one member suffers, the whole body suffers with him; if one member is honored, all the members share in her joy. This kind of identifying, this solidarity expresses itself best through compassion, in suffering with the other person.
Have we ever been asked if our heart is really with the poor guy in that dark alley or on that dangerous road, in the ditch or in the gutter? If Jesus is the One doing the healing, maybe we are the ones thrown into that ditch; maybe we’ve lain bloodied by the roadside, beaten-up by life, filled with pain & unable to help ourselves. Maybe we are the ones lying there…suffering & desperately looking, hoping, waiting for that radical act of love from a caring neighbor.
The emphasis of this parable is on the kind of people we are supposed to be; it focuses on how to be active neighbors, as we live on the lookout for those in need of help. The parable tells us that all three saw this man left for dead in the ditch. The first two passed by on the other side of the street. But, the third person was moved with pity, & had no other choice but to then take concrete action to express his compassion. This parable is not a lesson in loving others less fortunate or loving one’s enemies. It’s a specific moment in which Jesus’ teaching about compassion is put into action. Nowhere is the face of our Catholic Church more attractive than in our open embrace of our neighbors; each encounter with those in need is actually an opportunity to create a better world, a civilization of love, one person at a time, one action at a time!!!
Look at us! We belong to a wounded world, bruised & scarred by sin, wounded by division & the pain we inflict on each other. The Samaritan, the one who stops & really does see us is Christ, the Son of God, who became a neighbor for us. He drew nearer to us as a man in order to become our neighbor. Christ, this Good Samaritan, bears our sins & even grieves with us & for us. He comes to the wounded & brings healing. For many of the early Christians & the Early Church Fathers, the inn in this parable represented the Church because they understood the Church as a place of healing; the Church is our neighborhood! It’s within this tradition that speaks to us first & foremost about who Christ has been & is for us still that reminds us who He calls us to be for each other every single day of our lives.
Fr. Isaac Kalina, O.S.B.