The Good Samaritan

A young mother was having one of the worst days of her life. Her husband lost his job. The water heater exploded. She had a stack of bills she could not pay. Her hair was a mess, and she felt fat and ugly. She was almost at the breaking point as she lifted her little one-year-old into his highchair, leaned her head against the tray and began to cry. Without a murmur, the little one took the pacifier out of his own mouth … and gently placed it in hers!

For sure, both the priest and the Levite in the parable of the Good Samaritan had reasons not to help the man by the roadside. I can think of only one. Both the priest and the Levite did not want to be involved.

Getting involved can be a messy business. The trouble we let ourselves in if we decide to answer a cry for help is beyond our knowledge. More often, it is easier for us to close our eyes and pretend that we do not know the problem unfolding before our eyes.

Of course, we have our good and countless reasons for not stopping by. Some of us may have already said those same alibis and excuses, “God will understand because I have done other good things before” or “Others will be of help, not just us for now.”

Both the priest and the Levite had one question in their mind upon seeing the badly beaten man, “What will happen to me if I stop?” Non-involvement creates walls, fences and divisions. Every wall erected creates prisoners on both sides. Every fence built makes neighbors distant. Every division made takes people apart.

Alexander Solzhenitsyn said that the mildest and at the same time most widespread form of betrayal was not to do anything bad directly, but just not to notice the doomed person next to one, not to help him, to turn away one’s face, to shrink back. Dante Alighieri had the same thoughts to paraphrase what he wrote that the lowest places in hell are reserved for those people who in terms of crises and opportunities for being good Samaritans persist in their own indifference.

The Samaritan came. And his question was different, “What will happen to the wounded man if I do not stop?” Before him was an enemy and yet the Samaritan, long ignored and ostracized by the Jews for being impure, got involved. Before him was somebody who perhaps did not even trust him and yet the Samaritan followed his heart. Before him was somebody who was a victim and the Samaritan helped.

The good Samaritan is a complete expression of what St. Augustine once prayed to God that, “By loving the unlovable, You made me lovable.” The most pure love and the truest love do not make sense.

Unfolding before us are two frequent images of our human society: a victim needing help and a helper who is also a victim.

Some of us may have been the victims before. Some of us may have been left wounded by the roadside of life and we called for help. No priest or Levite came to our rescue. Maybe not even a good Samaritan. And we felt ignored, rejected and abandoned.

And maybe some of our friends, acquaintances, enemies, and fellow human beings right now are still on the roadside. Their wounds may not be visible physically, but their spirits have been wounded deeply. They may not have been divested of their possessions, but they may have been robbed of their lives. And they are crying for help.

We do not need to go far. Moses said to the people that we need not go up in the sky or go across the sea in order to follow the command of God. It is something very near to us, already in our mouths and in our hearts. We have only to carry it out.

The parable of the good Samaritan exposes the essence of Christianity. Christianity is love not just in thought, but especially in action. Christianity should not just be talked about in churches, but should also be expressed in places especially where victims abound. .

A little boy was once asked what he thought of Christians and he said, “Christians are mild, weak, quiet, people who never fight or talk back." Then he added, "Daddy is a Christian but Mother isn't."

We are reminded in today’s Gospel that when somebody is in need, we should never walk by like what the priest did, that relationship matters more than rules, unlike what the Levite thought, and that when somebody offers to help, we should not stay in the ditch.

What must we do to inherit everlasting life? Be a good Samaritan. Or as Jesus wisely said, “Go and do likewise.”

11 July 2010

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