It's a lamentable, costly grace, but pain eases prejudice.

"The Good Samaritan" by Theodule-Augustin Ribot c1870

One has to wonder if ISIS knows what it is doing. The idea behind domestic terror attacks is to sow dissension by exploiting the prejudices of the West, using fear to pry apart communities. Yet the effect is quite often the opposite.

Consider what happened in the Hernandez home the morning after the shooting at the Nightclub Pulse. In The New York Times Julie Turkewitz reported that

Advertisement
In Orlando, Leyda and Mane Hernandez have struggled to come to terms with her son’s identity since he came out about 10 years ago. “I grew up in Puerto Rico, in the city of Ponce,” said Mane Hernandez, 52, “making fun of gay, gay, gay.”
Their son, Enakai Hernandez, is a 27-year-old artist who had partied at Pulse for years. On the weekend of the attack, he was staying at his parent’s home in a gated community here, sick in bed.
When he woke and the depth of the tragedy revealed itself, his mother took him in her arms as he cried.
“Sabes que te quiero mucho?” she has told him over and over in recent days. “Que tú eres el amor de mi vida?” Her message: that she loved her son and considered him the love of her life.
“Although I am not proud of what my son is, because it’s not what I wanted for him, I accept it,” she said. “I accepted it before, I still accept it, and now I accept it even more. Because I know there are many people that hate. These are human beings who are equal to everyone else. They are people, they have feelings, they have hearts, they have families.”

 

Jesus compels the scholar of the law to see the implications of his Parable of the Good Samaritan, when he asks:

“Which of these three, in your opinion,
was neighbor to the robbers’ victim?”
He answered, “The one who treated him with mercy.”
Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise” (Lk 10: 36-37).

 

Pain transcends politics and prejudice. It calls out to us, above the division of doctrines. “Sabes que te quiero mucho?Que tú eres el amor de mi vida?

The German philosopher Robert Spaemann wrote that pain refuses to be categorized, yet it demands recognition.

The same categories that allow pain to be grasped as an irreducible reality resists its transposition into the terms of modern—i.e. scientific thinking. The communion of those who suffer is, like the communion sanctorum, indifferent to classification into historical periods (16).

 

Philosophers can debate what is real, what is capable of proof, but people know pain. Christ’s parable—and modern politics—show that it is possible to seal away sympathy for the suffering, yet one can only do so only by smothering something deep within the soul.

Suffering creates communion. The New Testament names those who suffer as “saints,” and the martyrs were the first to be recognized as such. To be human is to respond to the pain of others, to recognize our own humanity in their tortured bodies and faces. No law writes our response. It’s scripted in the soul.

No, it is something very near to you,
already in your mouths and in your hearts;
you have only to carry it out (Dt 30:14).

 

This past June, The New York Times reported that now “L.G.B.T. people are twice as likely to be targeted as African-Americans, and the rate of hate crimes against them has surpassed that of crimes against Jews.”  It's a lamentable, costly grace, but pain has a way of easing prejudice. Suffering creates communion.

Before San Bernardino, weren’t most Americans (at least a little) jealous of Californians? Before Paris, didn’t we like to joke that the French were not the allies that we would have chosen? Yet prejudice abates in the face of pain. Would civil rights have advanced in America—and in other parts of the world—without images of passion, broadcast into our homes? Of course, the sufferings of Freedom Riders didn’t end racism in America, just as the Holocaust hasn’t eradicated anti-Semitism. Yet suffering creates solidarity. It sews together souls.

One has to wonder if ISIS knows what it is about. Kill yourselves in the name of an ideology and we pity you. Kill others, and we ignore you. We see only the misery of your victims. , because the only way not to be a Good Samaritan, not to respond to suffering, is to deny something deeply human within ourselves.

Deuteronomy 30: 10-14  Colossians 1: 15-20  Luke 10: 25-37

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.

Advertisement

Don't miss the best from America

Sign up for our Newsletter to get the Jesuit perspective on news, faith and culture.

The latest from america

Las palabras de Jesús fueron mucho más que doctrina humanista, porque fueron revelación.
Among both listeners and staff, one can find those who were born and raised in the United States or moved here at a young age and those who are new to the country; those who have papers and those who do not or whose parents do not.
Jim McDermottMay 24, 2018
Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh and his disciples at Rajneeshpuram (Credit: Netflix)
Sometimes the best way to understand a phenomenon is to look at its parody.
José DueñoMay 24, 2018
Chris Rock (photo: Netflix)
“Tambourine” should be mandatory viewing in all diocesan Pre-Cana programs.
Jake MartinMay 24, 2018