Dear Sacred Heart Family
This week’s Gospel of the Good Samaritan, after the passion
story of Christ and the nativity, is certainly one of the richest
stories in all of Scripture. I am sure over the years you have
heard about the many dimensions of this story, who is my
neighbor, why the first two men could not stop to help, what
it meant that Jesus held up a Samaritan as a model, and why
Samaritans were despised (and visa- versa) by the Jews.
Perhaps as a way of going deeper, it is worth considering not
who is my neighbor because we know, as Christians, we are
neighbors to everyone, but more importantly, how do we
treat our neighbors. Jesus puts the scholar of the law to the
test and the scholar answers correctly, our neighbor is “the
one who treated him with mercy.” Jesus teaches us to be a
neighbor to others is to treat them with mercy.
Mercy is a certain kind of love, where love is the selfless
seeking the good of another. In its Latin root, mercy means
to have a heart for the suffering of another, to be sorrowful
at the suffering of another. We gain it when we walk a mile
in someone else’s shoes but It is not enough to see it or just
feel sad, mercy is a living emotion that finds expression is a
loving response to those who suffer.
For some, mercy is seen as a sign of weakness, as the weak
should not be coddled or people should face all the
consequences of their mistakes. Mercy though is proper to
God and as St Thomas Aquinas pointed out is the clearest
example of God’s omnipotence. God certainly had every
right to condemn us, but His divine mercy is within our reach
at every moment through the gift or reconciliation
(confession) where God suffers with us and God forgives us.
This is why the Samaritan was the true neighbor, he showed
mercy to the beaten man. He did not blame the man for his
situation as the other two men had done, the Samaritan did
not avoid him because it was going to make him unclean, nor
he did not leave him there to be victimized again. He
treated the man with mercy.
Some might say he was following the golden rule to treat
others as you would want to be treated, but if that was his
reason, that would still in some sense be selfishness, mercy
is more. If the Samaritan had treated him for some benefit
(self-esteem or personal gain) that would have only been
manipulation, and mercy is more. He treated this man as
love dictates, as God would treat him.
It is easy to kill others or at least blame them for their sins,
think of what we did over the centuries to slaves, Jews, gays,
migrants without papers, and those who have committed
suicide. These are our neighbors and Jesus reminds us our
only response is mercy, remembering blessed are the
merciful, they will receive mercy.
With a heart for Mission,