By Gina Gaudet
A few weeks ago, Father Chuck Cannon spoke eloquently on the parable we know as the “Good Samaritan.”
One aspect of the story he highlighted was the response of the priest and the levite (likely the priest’s assistant) to the presence of a man lying on the side of the road, clearly in dire need of assistance, and possibly dead.
The two individuals passing by did not address the situation. Two reasons present: 1) a dead man is unclean; not to be touched by the priestly class, and/or 2) on this dangerous stretch of road, the man might be a decoy for robbers.
Interestingly, it is a Samaritan, a foreigner, deeply disliked by Jews, who comes to the man’s aid, dressing his wounds, transporting him to an inn in the nearest town and paying the innkeeper to further care for the unfortunate traveler. Jesus’ question was who was the true neighbor to the man?
The true neighbor is the one who is compassionate, in this case, from a place of empathy. Samaritans were outcasts of sorts themselves; this hero had empathy for his fellow traveler, regardless of national or religious affiliation. I wondered, if I were in a foreign country because my own was torn apart by corruption and conflict, who would take me in? The one with compassion.
In a Latin American country, that could be just about anyone. They share an experience of persecution, poverty and threat. But compassion doesn’t have to be born solely of shared experience. Jesus didn’t necessarily share a true story, but rather a story planted in truth. The true neighbor is the one who acts from compassion. Simple truth.
This story should speak to the numbers of Christians who view our detained neighbors from Central America with disdain, anger, fear or hatred. It is hard to conjure up basic compassion when your life hasn’t been threatened. But Jesus asks us to react to the plight of the refugee as if we had known the same circumstances in our lives. Compassion borne of love. Just love.
Love your neighbor as yourself.
Our communion liturgy contains powerful words telling of the power of God’s love in our lives.
Before we take the bread and wine, we sing to Jesus, the lamb of God. In the second verse:
“Lamb of God, you break the chains of hatred and fear: have mercy on us.”
Third verse: “Lamb of God, you are the way of justice and peace, have mercy on us”
Fourth verse: “Lamb of God, you are the way of mercy and love, have mercy on us.”
Have mercy on us all.