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Who is a neighbour

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Who is a neighbour

Everyone “can become the neighbour to
any needy person you meet, so long as your heart has “the capacity so suffer
with the other. Pope Francis drew this comforting certainty from the parable
of the Good Samaritan, during the General Audience on Wednesday, 27 April. With
the faithful in St Peter’s Square, the Holy Father continued with the series of
catecheses on the theme of mercy, linked to the extraordinary Jubilee, offering
a reflection on the how the passage taken from the Gospel of Luke (10:25-37)
applies today. The following is a translation of his address, which was
delivered in Italian.

and do likewise (Lk 10:25-37)

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Good morning!

let us reflect on the parable of the Good Samaritan (Lk 10:25-37). A doctor of
the Law puts Jesus to the test with this question: “Teacher, what shall I do to
inherit eternal life? (v. 25). Jesus asks him to answer the question himself,
and the man answers perfectly: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your
heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your
mind; and your neighbor as yourself (v. 27). Jesus then concludes: “Do this,
and you will live (v. 28).

the man asks another question, which is very meaningful for us: “Who is my
neighbor (v. 29), and he emphasizes, “my relatives? my compatriots? Those of
my religion?…. Thus, he wants a clear rule that allows him to classify
others as “neighbour and “non-neighbour, as those who can become neighbours
and those who cannot become neighbours.

responds with a parable, taking the example of a priest, a Levite and a
Samaritan. The first two are figures linked to
Temple worship; the third is a schismatic Jew, considered a stranger,
pagan and impure, namely the Samaritan. On the road from Jerusalem to Jericho
the priest and the Levite come upon a dying man, whom robbers have attacked,
stripped and abandoned. The Law of the Lord in similar situations imposes the
duty to assist him, but both pass by without stopping. They were in a hurry….
The priest, perhaps, looked at his watch and said “But I am late for Mass…. I
must say Mass. The other said: “But I don’t know if the Law permits me to,
because there is blood there and I will be impure…. They take another way
and do not approach him. Here the parable offers us the first lesson: those who
attend the house of God and know his mercy do not automatically know how to
love their neighbour. It is not automatic! You may know the whole Bible, you
may know all the liturgical rubrics, you may know all theology, but from this
knowledge love is not automatic: loving has another path, it requires
intelligence, but also something more…. The priest and the Levite see but
ignore; they look but they do not offer to help. Yet there is no true worship
if it is not translated into service to neighbour. Let us never forget this:
before the suffering of so many people exhausted by hunger, violence and injustice, we cannot remain
spectators. What does it mean to ignore the suffering of man? It means to
ignore God! If I do not draw close to that man, that woman, that child, that
elderly man or woman who are suffering, I do not draw close to God.

us come to the core of the parable: the Samaritan, namely the despised man, the
one no one would have bet on, and who also had his own commitments and things
to do, when he saw the wounded man, he did not pass by like the other two, who
were linked to the Temple, but “he had compassion (v. 33). Thus the Gospel
says: “He had compassion, that is, his heart, his emotions, were moved! This
is the difference. The other two “saw, but their hearts remained closed, cold.
While the Samaritan was in synchrony with the very heart of God. Indeed,
“compassion is an essential characteristic of God’s mercy. God has compassion
on us. What does this mean? He suffers with us, he feels our suffering.
Compassion means “suffer with. The verb indicates that the physique is moved
and trembles at the sight of the evil of man. In the gestures and deeds of the
Good Samaritan we recognize the merciful acts of God in all of salvation
history. It is the same compassion with which the Lord comes to meet each one
of us: He does not ignore us, he knows our pain, he knows how much we need help
and comfort. He comes close and never abandons us. Each of us, ask and answer
the question in our heart: “Do I believe it? Do I believe that the Lord has
compassion on me, just as I am, a sinner, with many problems and many
matters?. Think about that and the answer is: “Yes!. But each one must see in
his heart whether he has faith in this compassion of God, of the good God who
draws close, heals us, caresses us. If we reject him, he waits: he is patient
and is always beside us.

Samaritan acts with true mercy: he binds up that man’s wounds, takes him to an
inn, takes care of him personally, and provides for his care. All this teaches
us that compassion, love, is not a vague sentiment, but means taking care of
the other even paying for him himself. It means compromising oneself, taking
all the necessary steps so as to “approach the other to the point of
identifying with him: “you shall love your neighbor as yourself. This is the
Lord’s Commandment.

the parable ends, Jesus reverses the question of the doctor of the Law, and
asks him: “Which of these three, do you think, proved neighbor to the man who
fell among the robbers? (v. 36). The response is totally unequivocal: “The one
who showed mercy on him (v. 37). At the beginning of the parable, for the
priest and the Levite, the neighbour was the dying man. At the end, the
neighbour is the Samaritan who drew near. Jesus reverses the perspective: do
not stand by classifying others by sight who is neighbour and who is not. You
can become the neighbour to any needy person you meet, and you will know that
you have compassion in your heart, that is, whether you have the capacity so
suffer with the other.

parable is a splendid gift for us all, and also a task! To each of us Jesus
repeats what he said to the doctor of the Law: “Go and do likewise (v. 37). We
are all called to follow the same path of the Good Samaritan, who is the figure
of Christ: Jesus bent down to us, he became our servant, and thus he has saved
us, so that we too might love as he loved us, in the same way.


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