Preaching on the Parable of the Good Samaritan, Pope Francis spoke of the fact that to ignore the suffering of another person is to ignore God.
There are four principle characters in the parable. The victim, who was an innocent traveler robbed by bandits and left wounded by the side of the road to Jericho, is a symbol of Jesus. A priest and a Levite, both observant Jews, are also part of the story as is a Samaritan traveler, who is considered an outsider because he is from a different Judean toparchy or province. Bad blood, even enmity, had existed between the observant Jews and Samaritans dating back to the Exile.
Jesus was making the point that our neighbor, whom Jews were charged to love as themselves, (Leviticus 19:18) meant more than their associate and fellow Hebrew, and that religion required more than the performance of religious rites. His teaching was brought home by the observant priest’s and Levite’s cold-hearted indifference to the suffering in contrast to the compassionate mercy of the despised Samaritan.
“It is not automatic that one who frequents the house of God and has known His mercy knows how to love his neighbor,” the pope noted. “God’s mercy for us is related to our mercy for our neighbor; […] If I do not open the doors of my heart to the poor, the door stays closed for God too. And this is terrible.”
“Showing compassion to others like God shows compassion to us is the sign that one is close to God. To ignore human suffering — what does that mean? It means ignoring God,” he told a crowd of pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square, adding, “If I do not draw near to the man or woman or child or older person who is suffering,” — with their sin and with their wounds — “I cannot draw near to God”