Saturday, July 10, 2010

The real neighbor

(Lk 10:25-37 - The Good Samaritan)

A man appears before St. Peter at the pearly gates. "Have you ever done anything of particular merit?" St. Peter asks.
"Well, I can think of one thing," the man offers. "Once, on a trip to the Black Hills, out in South Dakota, I came upon a gang of high-testosterone bikers who were threatening a young woman. I directed them to leave her alone, but they wouldn't listen. So I approached the largest and most heavily tattooed biker.
I smacked him on the head, kicked his bike over, ripped out his nose ring and threw it on the ground.
And I told him: "Leave her alone now or you'll answer to me!'"
St. Peter was impressed: "When did this happen?"

"Just a few minutes ago."

There was this other unusual incident which happened on my tour of Barcelona. There I was happily strolling in the vicinity where stands one of Antonio Gaudi's famous architectures. I was by myself taking short clips with my videocam when three casually-dressed Spanish ladies approached me. What could these ladies want with me I wondered, as I quickly dispelled the crazy thought that they may have been attracted by my good looks.They started talking to me in rapid Catalan as one grabbed my arm and the other stretched her hand with palm upwards, while the third pointed a sharp-looking object at me. Oh my God I prayed, this is a stickup even as I protested: "No hay! no tengo dinero!". Suddenly a very tall Spaniard in a business suit interfered, warding off the three intrepid ladies: "que pasa! que pasa!!". The three would-be robbers scampered out of sight as they were intimidated by the over six-foot tall Spaniard in the business suit with matching briefcase. I uttered my profuse "gracias, gracias" to him even as I quickly walked away from the scene. After a few steps I glanced backwards to get a good look at my knight in shining suit, but he was nowhere to be seen anymore. He had vanished just as quickly as he appeared.

The parable of the Good Samaritan is a most popular parable with an enduring message. It is a parable that was Jesus' answer to the legalistic question: "Who is my neighbor?". On deeper reflection, it becomes apparent that Jesus has turned the question upside down. It was not anymore a question of "Who is my neighbor", but more a question of "How am I as a neighbor?". The question is about our own persons, and not about how we categorize people. Today's modern translations say "the Samaritan traveler who came upon him was moved with compassion at the sight". Exegetes would assert that the original Hebrew texts portrayed a stronger emotion. Upon seeing the wounded man left half-dead, the Samaritan felt his heart wrenched open, with a Hebrew reference to a mother's womb and maternal care. The original texts actually convey that the Samaritan was viscerally moved by compassion and love. His heart was wrenched open. It did not matter who he was helping. It can be a stranger, a relative, a town mate, a countryman, a foreigner...and yes, it can even be a naive tourist strolling around taking pictures. For all its lessons, the parable of the Good Samaritan eventually points us to love rightly and to become more like Him - who loved us all first.

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