Can We Recognize Ourselves?

by | Feb 12, 2021 | Formation, Reflections

Famous people who didn’t

They were comfortable… until they were told a story. They then learned an uncomfortable truth. The person in the story out there hid in their own heart.

The Prophet Nathan rebukes King David by Eugène Siberdt

A coverup that failed

The famous King David tried to cover up an affair he had with the wife of one of his key soldiers. He sent her husband into battle at the most dangerous place where he was sure to be killed. He thought he was home free. He was… until the prophet Nathan told him a story about a rich man who took a poor man’s only sheep and killed it, even though he had many flocks of his own.

Not knowing what came next David responded… “the man who did this must die! He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity” (2 Samuel 12:5–6). Nathan then pointed to David and uttered the chilling words, “You are that man!”

A “gotcha” question that backfired

A budding lawyer trying to trap Jesus asked “Who is my neighbor?” He triggered one of the best stories in the Gospel… the story of the paradox of the hated Samaritan who took care of the needs of someone he had no relation to. When the lawyer acknowledged that the Samaritan was acting as a neighbor, Jesus simply said, “Go and do likewise!”


Pope Francis does the same to us today

Keep in mind the story of the Pharisee telling God he was not like these “other people”.

Keep in mind that the Jesus who told this story lived it.

Jesus cared for all “the others”

  • ‘the immoral’ (prostitutes and sinners)
  • ‘the marginalized’ (lepers and sick people)
  • ‘heretics’ (Samaritans and pagans)
  • ‘collaborators’ (publicans and soldiers)
  • ‘the weak’ and ‘the poor’ (who have neither power nor knowledge)

Pope Francis reminds us that we live in a “throw-away society”. We throw away not only consumer goods but people … anyone who does not look, think or act like me. My neighbors are only those who I like and feel comfortable with.

Others we pass by and do not see… the unborn, the frail elderly, the handicapped, or anyone with special needs whether physical, mental, or moral.


Can we recognize ourselves as modern “passers-by”?

He writes in Fratelli Tutti (yes, I am still chewing on his latest writing) …

  1. Let us now return to the parable of the Good Samaritan, for it still has much to say to us. An injured man lay on the roadside. The people walking by him did not heed their interior summons to act as neighbors; they were concerned with their duties, their social status, their professional position within society. They considered themselves important for the society of their time, and were anxious to play their proper part. The man on the roadside, bruised and abandoned, was a distraction, an interruption from all that; in any event, he was hardly important. He was a “nobody”, undistinguished, irrelevant to their plans for the future.
  2. What would be the reaction to that same story nowadays, in a world that constantly witnesses the emergence and growth of social groups clinging to an identity that separates them from others?

How would it affect those who organize themselves in a way that prevents any foreign presence that might threaten their identity and their closed and self-referential structures? There, even the possibility of acting as a neighbor is excluded; one is a neighbor only to those who serve their purpose.


He spends the rest of Fratelli Tutti exploring the structures of society that help or hinder our care for our neighbor.

I ask myself:

What groups do I pass by today?

Would the Good Samaritan (or God) pass them by?

What does Jesus mean “go and do likewise”?