After reflecting on the parable of the Good Samaritan during the week I returned to chapter two and picked out some points made by Pope Francis that struck me most — in n.76 he refers to the injured man. He says: “There are times when we feel like him, badly hurt and left on the side of the road. We can also feel helpless because our institutions are neglected and lack resources, or simply serve the interests of a few, without and within. Indeed, globalized society often has an elegant way of shifting its gaze. Under the guise of being politically correct or ideologically fashionable, we look at those who suffer without touching them. We televise live pictures of them, even speak about them with euphemisms and with apparent tolerance.” The phrase ‘we look at those who suffer without touching them’ struck me again when I was preparing to preach on this weekend’s Gospel about Jesus curing the leper.
One of the sub-headings in the chapter is ‘Neighbours without borders.’ This ties in with the fact that the parable of the Good Samaritan was told by Jesus to answer the question ‘Who is my neighbour?’ In Jesus’ time neighbour meant those nearest us. Jesus transforms the definition by asking us, as Pope Francis says, ‘not decide who is close enough to be our neighbour, but rather that we ourselves become neighbours to all.’ (n.80). Jesus
The last of the points that really hit me links n.82 and n.85. In n.82 Pope Francis says, ‘The parable, though, is troubling, for Jesus says that the wounded man was a Judean, while the one who stopped and helped him was a Samaritan. This detail is quite significant for our reflection on a love that includes everyone. The Samaritans lived in a region where pagan rites were practised. For the Jews, this made them impure, detestable, dangerous. In fact, one ancient Jewish text referring to nations that were hated, speaks of Samaria as ‘not even a people’ (Sirach 50:25);, it also refers to ‘the foolish people that live in Shechem’ (Sir 50:26). Jesus challenges the person who asked the question ‘Who is my neighbour?’ immediately with the different nationalities mentioned. We are challenged too and Pope Francis extends this to Christians who read this parable to get an answer to the question. In n.85 he says, ‘For Christians, the words of Jesus have an even deeper meaning. They compel us to recognise Christ himself in each of our abandoned or excluded brothers and sisters .