Sounds like the beginning of a joke…
But it is not. It is rather just some connections in my mind as I do a mindwalk around the beautiful grounds of our Vincentian Motherhouse in Philadelphia.
The story does have a hero… the Good Samaritan. The two Jesuits are in conversation with each other about the Good Samaritan. This Vincentian, eavesdropping on their conversation, thinks of St. Vincent de Paul.
Let’s begin with Jesus answering the trick question a lawyer put to him. “Tell me who is my neighbor.”
At the end of the story Jesus asks… “Which of these three leaders, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” (The lawyer) said, ‘The one who showed him mercy.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Go and do likewise.’”(Lk 10:25-37).
The observations of two Jesuits
The one Jesuit has read the passage often. But from the depth of his soul, he brings to light a new connection. The connection is far wider than most of think. The story is not just about two Individuals. It is also a story about society.
“Let us look to the example of the Good Samaritan. Jesus’ parable summons us to rediscover our vocation as citizens of our respective nations and of the entire world, builders of a new social bond. This summons is ever new, yet it is grounded in a fundamental law of our being: we are called to direct society to the pursuit of the common good and, with this purpose in mind, to persevere in consolidating its political and social order, its fabric of relations, its human goals. By his actions, the Good Samaritan showed that “the existence of each and every individual is deeply tied to that of others: life is not simply time that passes; life is a time for interactions”.
In his mind, the story of the Good Samaritan reminds us we live in a society where we are all connected.
The other Jesuit further unpacks the story. He reframes the story as a parable of perception, saying that in order to really understand the parable we’ve got to see things like the Good Samaritan did.
He points out that 99 out of 100 homilies or other presentations that we’ve heard, the parable makes it feel like the decision is a decision to help in this kind of situation. He believes the more radical decision is the decision to see.
In his mind the two “books” that the first Jesuit wrote must be seen together: “Laudato Si’ taught us that everything is connected; ‘Fratelli Tutti’ teaches us that everyone is connected.”
Once you see that everything else makes sense. It’s a new way of seeing how our society, both in its structure and politics, must be built around seeing the fundamental dignity of each human being living in a home that belongs to each of us, our earth.
St. Vincent did not have a science-based awareness that everything in our common home is connected and each of us bears responsibility for its care. He did see what so many others, especially among the privileged,.. did not see. He ‘saw’ the physical and spiritual sufferings of his sisters and brothers. He saw that Jesus came to bring Good News, not just in empty words or the multiplicity of laws and legal responsibilities. He “saw” that we are all interconnected.