A Dangerous Reading of the Good Samaritan

by | Nov 11, 2020 | Formation, Reflections, Systemic change

A recent voter reflects on one of the most dangerous passages of the New Testament– the parable of the Good Samaritan, Luke 10:25 ff.

Valerie Schultz asks “After a divisive election, how do we answer the question ‘Who is my neighbor?’

She writes

The election is over. Praise God. We have voted in a president, and we are a fractured country. Our task now, after we have defaced our neighbors’ political signs and posted undignified invectives online, is to figure out how to be more neighborly to one another.

She then proceeds to share two stories about how she has been a bad neighbor. I encourage you to read her courageous honesty. These stories gave me pause and reminded me of how dangerous Jesus’ story is when read in the light of my personal life.

She continues

How do we all take a breath and remember that we are one people, and that in order not to destroy ourselves, we need the grace of community?

I think of the crafty question put to Jesus in the Gospel of Luke: Who is my neighbor? The easy answer is the family or the couple or the person you can see from your home. Your neighbors are the folks who live in your building or on your street or in your town. Jesus has a tougher answer for us. He tells us a story about an unexpected neighbor, a Samaritan loathed by Jesus’ listeners, who tended lavishly to an injured stranger. Go and do likewise, Jesus said.

She continues with this soul searching challenge

Love your neighbor as yourself, Jesus tells us. Here is a challenge: Start with the neighbor you love the least. For me, this is everyone who watches Fox News and owns an arsenal. My neighbor is the fellow Catholic who calls me a bad Catholic. My neighbor is the one who makes fun of political correctness and does not recycle and maybe even litters. And I must find something in each neighbor to love.

I am not saying we will ever be pals with any friendly intimacy. We don’t have to hang out to be neighborly. I do not have to send them a funny birthday card or bring a dip to their Super Bowl party. But I must discover something we hold in common. I have to find ways we can debate without acrimony. With God’s grace, I can substitute understanding for judgment. With God’s grace, I can listen without dismissing. I must grasp for something that bonds us as beloved children of God so that I no longer contribute to chaos and hatred. After all, I am called to see the face of Jesus in these neighbors’ faces, to love them as I love myself.

Remembering “I will break their hearts of stone/ Give them hearts for love alone.” – “Here I Am, Lord” by Dan Schutte, she concludes…

So I pray: Dear God, break my heart of stone into pieces. Give me a heart for love. Give me— give us— a place to start.

I say thank you first to Valerie Schultz but also to America Magazine for printing such a soul-searching reflection.

Jesus’ questions to me today…

  • Who is the neighbor I love least?
  • Am I willing to love this neighbor?
  • What would that look like?

Am earlier version of the post appeared on Vincentian Mindwalk


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