I think it’s pretty obvious that the point of the Good Samaritan story is that the kind and merciful Samaritan is meant to be our role model, our inspiration… someone whose actions point us directly toward the truth about discipleship. We are to emulate this. To be just like this.
We are to be the Good Samaritan ourselves.
So, I’d like to ask you a question. Actually, it’s the first of three questions. First: What does it mean to be a Good Samaritan? What words come to mind when you think about the Good Samaritan? Kindness? Mercy? Compassion? Empathy? It’s hard to argue with any of these. But I’d like to suggest another word: costly. Yes, costly.
The road between Jerusalem and Jericho was well known to be a particularly treacherous one as the hilly and remote nature of the path, coupled with the fact that it was a popular trade route, meant that it was a good place to be robbed. Most of the people on that route were carrying either goods to be sold or the money they got from doing so. When you went on this road, you moved along at a good pace and tried to avoid trouble. You did exactly as the priest and Levite in the story were doing.
But the Samaritan stopped to help, jeopardizing his own safety. He tended to the man’s wounds, took him into town to the inn and cared for him. He paid for his care and safety. And then he came back to check on him and pay the innkeeper the final tab on his way back through town.
The Good Samaritan was willing to sacrifice his safety, time, and money to help the one who was in need. This, for him, was probably quite costly.
What does this story tell us about the true nature of discipleship? What does it say about mercy? About our willingness to care for others and to do God’s work?
Anyone who knows me knows that Fr. James Keenan’s definition of mercy is one of my favorite quotes. He describes mercy as “willingly entering into the chaos of another” and the Good Samaritan did just that.
So, my second question, using this definition of mercy and Jesus’ own example of discipleship, is: Are you a Good Samaritan? I’ve been asking myself that same question.
Am I a Good Samaritan? Do I sacrifice anything at all to help others? Is there any cost associated with what I am doing? Or, do I tend toward what is easier and less personally costly?
Ok, the third question is: How can you be a Good Samaritan? What can you do, starting today, that is in the spirit of the man in the parable who willingly entered into the chaos of another? What can you do to emulate the discipleship model that Jesus so clearly calls us toward?
I believe it’s worth giving that some thought and I believe this is the central challenge of today’s Gospel message.
Who do you know right now who is experiencing hardship? Or great challenge? Who is particularly vulnerable? Or suffering? Who is living in darkness and without much hope? Who is free-falling? Who is encountering chaos?
What can I do about it?
How can I be a Good Samaritan?