And Who is my Neighbour?


And Who is my Neighbour?

A seventy-five-year-old man won a lottery prize of $ 75,000.00. He had very bad heart and his family was afraid that this good news could over excite him and kill him. So, they asked the parish priest to slowly and carefully convey the good news to him. The priest came and asked the old man: “Friend, suppose you won the sum of $75,000.00 in the lottery, what would you do?” The old man said, “I would give you half and the church half.”  On hearing this, the parish priest fell over and died!

This is not a true story, but it, like the parable of the Good Samaritan, underlines some very important truths about people and society. Ever since it was told, it has stirred the hearts of millions inspiring them to love, even love heroically. I recall the words of Pope Francis who said that ‘every church has to be a field of hospital.’ When Jesus told this parable, Jewish people might have been shocked to hear Jesus say that a Samaritan stopped to help this victim. In those days, Samaritans were regarded as enemies by first century Jews and yet a Samaritan is the hero of this Jewish story.

If Jesus had merely wanted to teach about neighbourly love, the third person could have been another Jew, or the victim might have been a Samaritan helped by a Jew. But by making the hero of the story a Samaritan, Jesus was turning his social world upside down and challenging deep-seated suppositions. Certainly, it was the Samaritan who behaved like a loving neighbour even though he was under no obligation to do so. Fr. Ron Rolheiser writes that to be “consecrated” implies you are obliged under certain urgent circumstances do important actions, e.g., if you are the first person come upon an accident on the highway you are “consecrated” or ordained to respond to the aid of the accident victims.

Sometimes we can use social rules, and religious regulations to avoid our “consecration” to a fellow human being in need.  The priest and the Levite in the parable, who were supposed to be examples of piety, rejected the opportunity to show concern to the man beaten by robbers.  They used customs and regulations to excuse themselves from showing compassion to another human being in great distress.

The purpose of this parable is to demonstrate the nature of love in God’s kingdom. The real response to the question: “Who is my neighbour?” is that everyone, including my enemy, is my neighbour. The Samaritan’s compassion was costly because it involved making himself vulnerable to attack by robbers because he was now walking instead of riding. The Good Samaritan also made a financial contribution to an innkeeper to look after this victim without any expectation of being repaid.  Another important point is that he might have been shunned by his own people for helping a Jew.

Through this parable Jesus shows that we need to care about our neighbours with the same concern that we care about ourselves. Even our enemy is redefined as a neighbour. Therefore, this love is more than simply smiling at strangers and trying to develop positive attitudes towards people we don’t particularly like.  The special people whom we are called to love are the alienated, the marginalized, the oppressed and the neglected. We shall ask ourselves: are our eyes open to see the pain in other people’s eyes? Are our ears open to hear the cry in other people’s voices? Are our hearts open to become involved in other people’s hurts? Jesus invites us to reach out, risk our pride and become compassionate humans. We are called not so much to an expensive love but to an expansive love.

When we practice expansive love, we taste the abundance of God as it flows through us.  It deepens our sense of our true identity, that we are children of God more than we are from this or that nationality, tribe, or family.  When that happens, we begin to treat the stranger, the troublesome and even our enemy with respect, kindness, and compassion.  Experiencing our identity softens our heart to accept our true vocation.  Not something to be feared, like an enemy, our vocation consecrates us to a special life of discipleship, spirituality, service, and community.  Through our vocation Jesus anoints our wounded world, robbed by sin, but capable of receiving divine abundance and love and creating a culture of care for others and creation that is the side effect of God’s love for us.

By Susai Jesu, OMI
Vocation Team – West