Go and Do Likewise
This is a summary of our Sunday gospel reading. We are all familiar with the story of the Good Samaritan, the one who responds to the need, even when others have justified inaction. We probably all examine our consciences and try to think of times when we have been the Good Samaritan.
Today I invite us to think of ourselves as the other person in the narrative—the one that is ostracized, politically not deserving of care, not of a certain race, or gender or marital status, one who differs in cultural, religious and political matters.
Imagine yourself not as the Samaritan who wants to love God and neighbor, but as the person who is in need. Who among us “dying” or “left to die after being beaten?” A woman who has been raped? A mother, abandoned by her spouse, with several children to care for? A man with no hope? Can you see yourself at your most vulnerable time, deeply troubled, deep in despair with only one hope that someone, anyone will see and hear the pain, give credence to it, and with compassion do something to help.
One writer described the stranger who stops to help in this way:
Now imagine that the stranger who is most kind, most loving is not the upstanding citizen who looks and thinks like you. Imagine that she or he is that person you dismiss as a bigot or a heathen, a racist or an instigator, a misogynist or a baby-killer. Imagine that your succor is delivered by someone whom you would never consider to be your neighbor, your friend, your sister or brother in the faith. Imagine that your greatest need is filled by such a person. What would that teach us about the meaning of loving God and loving neighbor?
When the lawyer in the gospel story asks the question “who is my neighbor?” it seems that he, like us often, is trying to find the loophole that divides the world into neighbors and non-neighbors; the deserving poor, the undeserving poor; the refugee, the economic migrant; the freedom fighter, the terrorist; the needy, the scrounger; the shirker, the worker.
In other words, Jesus tells the story to teach us that God’s love and compassion knows no bounds. If we see and know the world as God does, there are no exceptions, no divisions in identifying who my neighbor is.
Jesus spoke with credibility: He himself was a refugee who with His parents escaped to Egypt when King Herod ordered a mass slaughter of children. Jesus was homeless and relied on others to provide support and shelter his entire life. Ultimately, He was executed by an unjust power who felt threatened by His challenge to realign with the Kingdom of God.
Today, our challenge is to follow Jesus in recognizing who our neighbor is with no exceptions. To do so is to open our ears to hear the cry of the most vulnerable among us, and with tender hearts to come in contact with suffering that calls us out of our selfishness. Jesus says: Go and do likewise.