In today’s Gospel Our Lord teaches us, through the story of the Good Samaritan, that compassion should be the driving force behind all our actions, a compassion that cuts through enmities, cultural differences , and feuds. Samaritans and Jews were at odds with each other: the Jews considered them culturally and cultually corrupted. The Samaritans defended their Old Testament roots and believed that Jerusalem was an upstart of the southern part of Palestine trying to claim an importance it didn’t merit. How many cultures at odds with each other can we think of throughout history and even today?
When Our Lord tells the scribe in today’s Gospel that a Samaritan was a neighbor for showing more compassion to a man robbed and left for dead than two socially important Jews, he was using a shocking example for his listeners, who considered themselves superior to the Samaritans. The priest and the Levite made ritual propriety a priority: if the beaten man was dead they would have been ritually contaminated and unable to participate in Temple worship if they’d drawn near him. It didn’t make them question their ritual propriety–were they really loving God if they weren’t loving man? The Samaritan didn’t have to do any legal or mental gymnastics: he was overwhelmed with pity for what he saw, and didn’t just drop the poor man off at a hospital, but cared for him and provided for him, resolving to follow up until he was sure that he was okay. That’s the commitment and concern of a neighbor. Our Lord teaches us today that neighbors are not only our “buddies,” but anyone who is in need, whether there is good or bad blood between us.
Let’s ask Our Lord today to foster in us the compassion that moves us to be good neighbors to everyone.
Readings: Jonah 1:1–2:2, 2:11; Jonah 2:3–5, 8; Luke 10:25–37.