And so, the story goes, a man was traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho, a dangerous road to take anytime of the day. He was attacked by robbers, beaten up, stripped of everything, left helpless and half dead in the ditch. A Priest, who had an astonishing resource of ethics and theology came and simply passed him by perhaps, because he was running late again for the Mass at St. James or maybe, afraid of liability and the risks that go with pausing and rescuing the wounded man. Then, a devout Catholic, who was in her way for a prayer meeting did the same, refused to help. There was no excuse for such a neglect. These two prominent and highly esteemed religious figures whose identities supposedly were models of mercy, shockingly chose not to assist despite the imminent peril.
Surprisingly, it was a Samaritan, held in contempt by the Jews and considered fake, who was moved with compassion and showed profound concern. It was, so to speak, the unlikely character, the least expected, the trouble-maker, the despised foreigner of different religious and ethnic background, the shunned illegal migrant, the outcast redneck, the heretical Catholic, the black sheep, the suspicious looking Muslim who just moved in the neighborhood, who came to the rescue. I’m not a Samaritan but when I drove here and stopped for gas at Chevron, some folks looked at me straight in the eye as if, what’s an Asian guy doing in Coolidge? More often than not, God comes to us in surprising and mysterious ways through unexpected encounters with strange and unlikely people. That’s why the story remains astounding and as usual, has never lost its appeal and taste.
Lets say you’re heading to Coolidge from the freeway. As you approach the prison, a fellow with an orange shirt is lying by the side appearing dead. You know he needs help but you’re alone and afraid to pull your car. WWYD? What if it’s someone stepping in the middle of the road with a right thumb held up high on a friday night -he needs a ride but the sign says never stop for hitchhikers-that’s against the law and it’s dangerous to stop to strangers and yet, your conscience tells you otherwise -go help. WWYD? In this scenario, I know most of you, would call 911. Funny and crazy as can be, it tells us how complicated things are. It’s impossible to offer help to everyone in need. Even if we have a clear understanding of the church teaching and the commandment to love, it’s difficult to put it into action.
So, who is your neighbor? Well, we have crafted our own definition but the love of Jesus knows no bounds. Doing so is the best possible way to inherit eternal life if we can hardly wait for it. As St. Therese of Lisieux, the little flower, once said, “i’ll spend heaven by doing good things on earth.” I don’t know about you but I’ll do likewise. Amen.