DON’T PASS BY ON THE OTHER SIDE
«Be compassionate as your Father is compassionate». This is the legacy that Jesus has left humanity. In order to understand the revolution that he wants to bring about in history, we need to read carefully the story of the «good Samaritan». In it we find explicit the attitude we need to promote, beyond our beliefs and our religious and ideological stance, in order to build a more humane world.
In the ditch along a lonely road lies a human being: robbed, attacked, left without anything, half dead, abandoned to his fate. In this wounded person without name or country Jesus sums up the situation of so many innocent victims, unjustly abused and abandoned in the ditches along so many paths of history.
On the horizon appear two travelers: first a priest, then a Levite. Both are part of the respected world of the official religion of Jerusalem. Both act in the same way: «They see the wounded man, make a detour and pass by on the other side». Both close their eyes and their hearts: that man doesn’t exist for them, they pass by without a pause. This is the radical criticism that Jesus makes of every religion that is incapable of generating in its members a compassionate heart. What purpose is served by such an inhumane religion?
Down the road comes a third person. It’s not a priest or a Levite. It’s not even someone who is part of the Temple religion. Nevertheless, when he gets there, he sees the wounded man, is moved and comes over to him. Later, he does all he can for that stranger in order to save his life and restore his dignity. This is the dynamic that Jesus wants to introduce into the world.
First, don’t close our eyes. Learn «to look» attentively and purposefully at the one who is suffering. This looking can free us of the selfishness and indifference that allows us to live with a relaxed conscience and with the illusion of innocence in the midst of some many innocent victims. At the same time, «be moved» and let their suffering ache within ourselves too.
What’s decisive is to react and «go over» to the one who is suffering, not in order to ask ourselves if we have or don’t have some obligation to help him, but in order to discover up close and personal who is the needy person who is calling out to us. Our concrete action will reveal our capacity to be human.
None of this is theory. The Samaritan in the story doesn’t feel obligated to fulfill a set religious or moral code. He simply responds to the situation of someone who is hurt, coming up with all kinds of practical actions that are directed at easing his suffering and restoring his life and his dignity. Jesus ends with these words: «Go and do the same yourself».
José Antonio Pagola
Translator: Fr. Jay VonHandorf