Today’s liturgical readings call us to remember and to live today the story of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37. We all know the gist of the story. A traveler is violently attacked and left for dead, passersby avoid the person, but then the least likely of them stops and tenderly cares for the person.
We tend to call anyone who helps a stranger a “good samaritan” which is certainly true to this story but there is also a deeper meaning which the last verse of the story calls us to remember:
Who is neighbor? The one who showed mercy, compassion.
Lest we only allow the story of the Good Samaritan to fill us with warm fuzzies, God calls us to live mercy and compassion, to reach out to others and to ourselves with mercy and compassion. There is yet a further meaning of these words which the prophet Zephaniah brings to the fore:
The word of God came to Zechariah, saying: Thus says God: Render true judgements, show compassion and mercy to one another; do not oppress the widow, the orphan, the alien, or the poor; and do not devise evil in your hearts against one another. (Zephaniah 7:8-10)
Mercy and compassion are the mark of true justice — not a vengeful justice that takes life for life, violence for violence — but one that shows kindness and respect, one that feels deeply for all involved, one that uses wisdom and relies on the grace of God.
Our response must be three-fold:
I’ve learned the all-too-difficult lesson that when you ask God to help you with something like putting your actions where your mouth is, God obliges! Just not necessarily the way I would have liked it. Still, we are called to follow through, to keep pursuing the good that God has stirred within us.