2018-11_LT-Samaritans

My Culture

A Time for Good Samaritans

In Luke 10:29, Jesus is asked by a scholar of the law, “…And who is my neighbor?” Instead of providing a textbook definition like the scholar was probably hoping for, Jesus decides to launch into His favorite teaching method: the parable. Jesus begins sharing the story of a man who was beaten, robbed, and left to die while journeying from Jerusalem to Jericho. On two different occasions, people witnessed this man expiring on the side of the road and, instead of stopping to help him, decided to walk to the other side of the road to pass him up without stopping. Luckily, a caring Samaritan man entered the scene soon after. He approached the wounded man and immediately got to work sanitizing and bandaging wounds. As soon as he finished, he had the man carried to a nearby inn and paid for his lodgings before leaving. As if that were not enough, he offered to pay for additional lodgings should the man not be healed and ready to leave in the amount of time that he had paid for.

After telling this story, Jesus asked, “Which of these three, in your opinion, was neighbor to the robbers’ victim?” The answer was clear: the Samaritan man. It didn’t matter to him that the wounded man was a stranger. It didn’t matter to him what the man’s religion was, where he was from, or what he looked like. It didn’t matter to him how much time and money it would take to heal this man. He just knew that the right thing to do was to take care of this man.

Don’t be Indifferent

This story is as timely as ever in light of the tragedy that took place at the Tree of Life synagogue on October 27, 2018. We have been presented with an opportunity — an opportunity that no one ever would have wished for — to be the Samaritan man in Jesus’ parable. This isn’t an opportunity that we can pass. Now isn’t the time to be the people who walk to the other side of the road. It could be tempting to be indifferent about the lives that were lost. It could be tempting to ignore the sickness of sin that is so clearly present in our society. It could be easy to pretend that this is a unique instance that won’t ever happen again or, at least, won’t happen in our community. Perhaps this is all especially tempting because the victims were of a different faith tradition than the one we belong to.

Instead, this should inspire us to pray especially hard. We should be thinking about what we can do to begin to heal the sickness and hurt in our own communities and the world. I don’t have all the answers to this terrible and complex problem, but I think I know where we can start: radical Christian love. This is what Jesus was trying to teach us to practice throughout our lives with His parables. Christian love can manifest in many different ways, but, right now, it would seem that at least one of them should be to put trivial differences aside, put our indifference aside, and stand unwaveringly beside our Jewish neighbors against violence and anti-Semitism.

A Common Heritage

If we take this seriously, this isn’t something that we can ever stop doing – even when it stops appearing in the headlines. A document formed during the Second Vatican Council called Nostra aetate reads, “Furthermore, in her rejection of every persecution against any man, the Church, mindful of the patrimony she shares with the Jews and moved not by political reasons but by the Gospel’s spiritual love, decries hatred, persecutions, displays of anti-Semitism, directed against Jews at any time and by anyone.” In short, we share a common heritage. Christ and the Catholic Church both sprang from the fertile soil of Judaism.

But, even if these things weren’t the case and there was little commonality between us, Christ taught us to love all people. After all, the religion or race that you belong to does not change the fact that you are made in the image and likeness of God. We are always obligated to stand up against prejudice. We are always obligated to avoid falling into hatred ourselves.

As difficult as it may sound, this means that the victims and families affected by the Tree of Life tragedy can’t be the only people that we are helping, praying for, and paying attention to. We also need to do the same for the people that are capable of carrying out acts as terrible as these. If Jewish medical professionals were capable of imitating the Good Samaritan by treating the man who murdered eleven members of their community as a neighbor, then we can keep ourselves from allowing hatred to become part of us.

Eternal rest grant to them, O Lord; and let light perpetual shine upon them. May their souls, and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.

About the Author

Trenton Mattingly

I'm from Kentucky and am adamant that it is the best state. I'm really into Catholic theology, angry rock music, and libraries but (mostly) not at the same time. I was once called a bad influence for helping teach a Franciscan friar how to skateboard and am pretty bummed that there isn't a St. Trenton, but hope to change that one day.