Best of Daily Reflections: Parable of the Good Samaritan
But a Samaritan, who was on a journey, came upon him; and when he saw him, he felt compassion...
I often read the story of the Good Samaritan imagining that one day I will display the kind of heroic behavior the Samaritan displays. Surely when the time arrives, I will willingly extend a hand and condescend myself to scoop someone out of a ditch. Yet, the actual story of the Good Samaritan does not contain any clear heroes or dramatic rewards for good deeds.
Even the villains, the Levite and the priest, do not commit acts of profane violence. They make split-second decisions: to walk on the other side of the street, to avert their eyes. This act of overlooking, ignoring, or passing those who lie before us in need is an act we have all committed. The Samaritan, in contrast, simply chooses to look, to notice, to draw near, and to respond.
One drawing by Rembrandt depicts the moment when the Samaritan approaches the door of the inn to exchange money with the innkeeper. Yet, this moment is somewhat obscured rather than featured in the drawing. Instead, the eye is drawn to a dog taking care of his “business” in the middle of the road. In this image, there is the sense that neighborly acts of mercy occur in the muck and mire of life, where things are dirty and devoid of glory.
To Jesus’ audience, the Samaritan is heretical and corrupt, about as unclean as the bleeding man in the ditch. Yet, it is the unclean Samaritan who cleans and restores the wounded man. How do we admit the depth of our need so that we allow those we would prefer remain at arm’s length to come and rescue us? What if our rescuers arrive in the form of our enemies? Or as someone we distrust, hate, stereotype, or toward whom we feel prejudiced? Someone who doesn’t speak the same language or worship the same God? Will we let these strangers bind our wounds?
Perhaps this parable teaches that the most neighborly thing we can do is submit ourselves to one another.
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION: From whom do you find it most difficult to accept help? When is it most difficult for you to admit weakness or vulnerability or to ask for help?
PRAYER: In the words of St. Francis: Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is
hatred, let me sow love. Where there is injury, pardon. Where there is doubt, faith. Where
there is despair, hope. Where there is darkness, light. Where there is sadness, joy. O Divine
Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console; to be understood,
as to understand; to be loved, as to love. For it is in giving that we receive. It is in pardoning
that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life. Amen.