“There was a scholar of the law* who stood up to test him and said, ‘Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ Jesus said to him, ‘What is written in the law? How do you read it?’ He said in reply, ‘You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.’ He replied to him, ‘You have answered correctly; do this and you will live.’ But because he wished to justify himself, he said to Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’” Luke 10:25-29
When asked our favorite passage from Scripture, I suspect that for many of us the Parable of the Good Samaritan would be number one. As in many of his parables, this parable had a “hook” in it, an unexpected element. The hook was the Samaritan, a member of a religious group for whom the Jewish people had great antipathy from the time of the Exile.
In the story the compassion comes not from the two Jewish religious leaders who not only pass by the wounded man but go out of their way to avoid him. It is the hated Samaritan who stops to render aid and provide for the victim’s care. The “scholar of the law” had to admit that the Samaritan, a foreigner, a stranger and an outcast, not the religious leaders, who was neighbor to the victim. Jesus then told the young man, go and do likewise.
I repeat this story because I was struck by Cardinal Rodríguez, who in his address to the UD Ministry Conference, repeatedly referred to our becoming a Samaritan Church, a Church “with a Samaritan praxis of justice and love.”
Cardinal Rodríguez’ call to embrace the culture of the Good Samaritan reflects Pope Francis’ vision of the “Church on the periphery”, in service to the world, engaging the culture as a witness to the loving compassion of Jesus. We live in a society that tends to embrace the “culture of indifference” that would pass by the wounded person because they did not want to “get involved” or believed “it was none of my affair.”
Being a Samaritan Church is, in the words of Cardinal Rodríguez, “to make the culture of the Good Samaritan your own before the neighbor in need: to feel as our own the grief of the oppressed, approaching them and releasing them.” Without this commitment, all religiousness is false. It is what Saint Paul told us: “if I do not have love, I am nothing” (1 Cor 13, 1-13).
Jesus is saying to us as a Samaritan Church what he said to the scholar of the law…“go and do likewise.”