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Pope Francis: Ignoring Our Neighbor’s Suffering Means Ignoring God!

© Antoine Mekary / ALETEIA

Diane Montagna - published on 04/27/16

Let us never forget this: We cannot remain spectators before the suffering of so many people who are worn out by hunger, violence, and injustice. What does ignoring the suffering of man mean? It means ignoring God! If I do not draw near to that man, to that woman, to that child, to that old man or that old woman who is suffering, I do not draw near to God.

But here we come to the heart of the parable: The Samaritan, that is, precisely the one who was despised, on whom no one would have bet anything, and who also had commitments and his own things to do, when we saw the wounded man, he didn’t pass by like the other two, who were tied to the Temple; rather, “he had compassion” (v.33). The Gospel says: “He had compassion,” that is, his heart and his depths were moved. This is the difference. The other two “saw,” but their hearts remained closed, cold. The heart of the Samaritan, on the other hand, was in sync with the very heart of God. In fact, “compassion” is an essential trait of God’s mercy. God has compassion on us. What does it mean? He suffers with us. He feels our sufferings. Compassion means “suffering with.” The word indicates that one is moved to the depths and stops at the sight of the evil of man.

In the gestures and actions of the Good Samaritan we see God’s merciful action throughout salvation history. It is the same compassion with which the Lord comes to each of us: His does not ignore us; he knows our sufferings, he knows how much we need help and consolation. He comes close to us and never abandons us. Each of us should ask himself and respond in his heart: “Do I believe this? Do I believe that the Lord has compassion on me, just as I am, a sinner, with many problems and many issues?” Think about it, and the answer is: “Yes!” But each of us has to look into his heart to see if he has faith in the compassion of God, of the good God who draws near, heals us, caresses us. And if we reject him, He waits: He is patient and is always by our side.

The Samaritan behaves with true mercy: he binds up the man’s wounds, he brings him to the inn, he personally takes care of him and he sees to his needs. All of this teaches us that compassion, love, is not a vague sentiment. Rather, it means taking care of the other to the point of personal sacrifice. It means getting involved, by taking all the necessary steps to “draw near,” to the point of identifying with him: you shall love your neighbor as yourself”. This is the Lord’s command.

Having concluded the parable, Jesus turns the question of the doctor of the Law and asks him: “Which of these three, do you think, proved neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” (V. 36). At last, the answer is clear: “The one who showed mercy on him” (v. 27). At the beginning of the parable, for the priest and the Levite, the neighbor was the dying man; and the end, the neighbor is the Samaritan who drew near. Jesus reverses the perspective: Do not stand by classifying others, to see who is your neighbor and who is not. You can become a neighbor to someone you meet who is in need, and you will be a neighbor if you have compassion in your heart, that is, if you have that ability to suffer with the other.

This parable is a wonderful gift for us all, and also a commitment. To each of us, Jesus repeats what he said to the doctor of the Law: “Go and do likewise” (v.37). We all are called to travel along the same path of the Good Samaritan, who is the figure of Christ: Jesus bends down to us, became our servant, and in so doing he saves us, so that we, too, might love one another as he loved us, in the same way.

Translated by Diane Montagnaof Aleteia’s English edition.

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