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

Pope Francis greets the crowd as he arrives for his weekly gener

© Antoine Mekary / ALETEIA

Diane Montagna - published on 04/27/16

The Parable of the Good Samaritan takes center stage at the Wednesday audience (Full Text)

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VATICAN CITY — Worship is not true if it does not translate into service to others, Pope Francis said on Wednesday, for “love is not a vague sentiment, but means taking care of another to the point of personal sacrifice.”

Pope Francis general Audience April 26, 2016
© Antoine Mekary / ALETEIA

Continuing his series of catecheses for the Year of Mercy, the pope turned today to the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37), telling faithful and pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square that attentiveness to religious practices and rubrics does not automatically lead to knowledge of God’s mercy and knowing how to love one’s neighbor.

Pope Francis general Audience April 26, 2016
© Antoine Mekary / ALETEIA

“Let us never forget this,” he said. “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!”

Pope Francis general Audience April 26, 2016
© Antoine Mekary / ALETEIA

The Good Samaritan, the pope said, behaves with true mercy and compassion, and acts with an authentic love of neighbor, by “suffering with him” without discrimination.

The compassion shown by the Samaritan is an image of the infinite mercy of God, who always sees our needs and draws near to us in love.

Pope Francis general Audience April 26, 2016
© Antoine Mekary / ALETEIA

Here below we publish an English translation of the pope’s catechesis.

Pope Francis during his weekly general audience
© Antoine Mekary / ALETEIA

Dear brothers and sisters,

Good morning. Today we reflect on the parable of the Good Samaritan (cf. Luke 10:25-37). A doctor of the Law puts Jesus to the test with this question: “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” (v.25). Jesus asks him to give the response himself, and he gives it perfectly: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself” (v. 27). Then Jesus concludes: “Do this, and you will live” (v. 28).

So the man asks another question, which becomes very valuable for us: “Who is my neighbor?” (v. 29), and he implied: “My relatives? My countrymen? Those of my religion?” In short, he wants a clear rule that allows him to classify others as “neighbors” and “non-neighbors,” as those who can become neighbors and those who cannot become neighbors.

And Jesus responds with a parable, involving a priest, a Levite and a Samaritan. The first two figures are linked to temple worship; the third is a schismatic Jew, regarded as a foreigner, as a pagan and unclean, that is, the Samaritan.

On the road from Jerusalem to Jericho, the priest and the Levite come across a dying man, whom robbers attacked, robbed and abandoned. The law of the Lord in such situations required the one help him, but both pass by without stopping. They were in a hurry … The priest, perhaps, looked at his watch and said: “But, I’ll be late for Mass … I have to say Mass.” And the other said: “But, I do not know if the law allows me, because there is blood there, and I will become unclean…”. They go by another road and do not approach. And here the parable offers us a first teaching: It is not automatic that those who frequent God’s house and know his mercy know how to love their neighbor. It is not automatic! You can know the entire Bible, you can know all the liturgical rubrics, you can know the whole of theology, but loving doesn’t come automatically from knowing: Love has another road, it requires intelligence, but also something more…. The priest and the Levite see [the dying man], but they ignore him; they look, but they do not provide for him. Yet there is no true worship if it does not translate into service to others.

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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