Of all the New Testament stories one of the best known is the story of the Good Samaritan. What strikes me when reflecting on this story is the fact that the injured traveler was a Jew and the kind helper was a Samaritan. The people from these two groups hated each other due to differing religious beliefs. Jesus throws his listeners when he uses the so called enemy to be the good neighbor. And even worse, his listeners, and we, are to be like him.
I believe this story is timely for our own time and place. Every day on TV and in our newspapers we hear the opposite of what the Good Samaritan story calls us to. We see ethnic groups killing each other. We see racism alive and growing. We see immigrant families being separated. The list of un-neighborly behaviors grows and almost seems to become the norm.
Both my mother and father were immigrants to this country. They had one advantage – they spoke English. But just a generation before them signs of “No Irish need apply” were common in most big cities. Other ethnic groups faced discrimination as well when they came to this country seeking a better life. Discrimination is not new.
Growing up I learned that America was like a big melting pot where every new group added to who we were as a people. That is no longer true. Newcomers are seen as a threat. Those who speak different languages are seen as outsiders. We try to become more insulated from the stranger.
This is not the message of the story of the Good Samaritan. We are called to care for our neighbor whomever she or he may be. We are to reach out to those in need, those on the margins of society.
Fr. Paul Bernier, SSS reminds us of what it means to be a Catholic when he states, “In every Mass we invoke the Holy Spirit that we who share in communion might be “one body, one spirit in Christ.” And we hear the priest pray that “the peace of the Lord be with you always.” And we share a sign of peace with each other. If this is not to be an empty sign, we must make it a priority in our lives…”
This is the message of Jesus about being good neighbors. How well do we act as one body, one spirit in Christ? Take some time to read and reflect on the story of the Good Samaritan.
Which of the characters in the story fit you and the way you live your life?
How can you become a better neighbor?