Who are you in the story of the Good Samaritan?
In today’s Gospel, we encounter the parable of the Good Samaritan. This rich narrative prompts us to reflect on how we treat one another. In telling the story, Jesus highlights the need to care for all people, especially vulnerable populations. The story is a reminder to emulate God by showing mercy and compassion. It reiterates the Gospel message of love that is intimately connected to action. Like Jesus’ ministry which centers on care and healing, the Samaritan actively shows mercy by tending to a person in need.
“He approached the victim, poured oil and wine over his wounds and bandaged them” (Lk 10:34).
What can you do to prevent suffering?
How do you respond to the needs of the world?
Do you look the other way as people suffer?
While the intention in the story is clear, the parable offers additional avenues for reflection. Consider all of the characters in the story. A nameless person is assaulted and left for dead. A group of robbers violate the person’s right to life, causing physical, emotional, financial and psychological damage. Three people encounter someone in extreme need. Two religious leaders do not help, showing no mercy and continuing along their way. One outsider to the community steps in to offer assistance, recruiting the innkeeper to support the recovery effort.
Jesus’ parables invite hearers to reflect on their actions and compare themselves to characters or elements in the stories in order to promote spiritual reflection and growth that translates into action in the world. While the goal is to strive to be like the Samaritan, offering help freely to anyone in need, it might be worth considering if we have more in common with the perpetrators of the crime or the person who suffers from it.
The robbers humiliate a person, stripping him naked, beating and stealing from him. They take what is not theirs and violate someone for personal gain. There are many parallels that could be drawn to our contemporary context on ways that people, companies and countries have and continue to profit from the exploitation of others. In light of recent news, the suffering of the man in the parable calls to mind the racially-motivated torture and murder of Emmett Till and the acquittal of the murders who robbed him of his life. While the parable centers on how we respond to violations, we must also call out and condemn violators and work to prevent suffering from happening.
We should also consider more fully the damage that is done when people suffer. Vulnerable and marginalized populations and communities that lack access to financial and political power are often those who suffer the most. Just as we need to respond like the Samaritan by actively showing mercy through service, today’s Gospel can inspire us to support and empower communities that have suffered as another way to live out our care and compassion for others.