In chapter two of Fratelli Tutti, Pope Francis focuses on the parable of the Good Samaritan which is told by Jesus when a lawyer asks him “And who is my neighbour?”
Although it would be easy to soften his interpretation of the parable, the Holy Father doesn’t let us off easy. He cuts right to the chase:
Jesus tells the story of a man assaulted by thieves and lying injured on the wayside. Several persons passed him by…Only one person stopped, approached the man and cared for him personally, even spending his own money to provide for his needs. He also gave him something that in our frenetic world we cling to tightly: he gave him his time. Certainly, he had his own plans for that day, his own needs, commitments and desires. Yet he was able to put all that aside when confronted with someone in need. Without even knowing the injured man, he saw him as deserving of his time and attention.
This reminds me of a time back in November of 2018 when Suzanna and I met a couple of friends at a hotel on the Oregon Coast to spend Thanksgiving together. While walking to a coffee shop in the rain, we noticed a man in a wheelchair who was struggling to cross a street. I stopped and asked him if we could help him. It was obvious he had been living on the street. When I got him to the other side of the street, he asked if we could help him get to the pharmacy at the top of the hill in the opposite direction of where we were headed. Suzanna and I pushed him to his destination so he could pick up some medication and, even though he asked for no money, I passed him $10 or $20 bucks as we parted ways. As we left the store, my friend launched into me with “There you go again trying to save the world…And how much money did he hit you up for?” To this day, I am still a bit disappointed in how my friend reacted and the dripping cynicism in his voice.
Lest you think I am nominating myself for sainthood, I could easily enumerate all the times I turned a deaf ear, a blind eye, and an empty wallet to a neighbor in need.
The Holy Father reminds us:
Which of these persons do you identify with? … We need to acknowledge that we are constantly tempted to ignore others, especially the weak. Let us admit that, for all the progress we have made, we are still “illiterate” when it comes to accompanying, caring for and supporting the most frail and vulnerable members of our developed societies. … The decision to include or exclude those lying wounded along the roadside can serve as a criterion for judging every economic, political, social and religious project. Each day we have to decide whether to be Good Samaritans or indifferent bystanders.
Of course, it’s not easy to always follow the example of the Samaritan, but no one said that the path to heaven was easy. Pope Francis tells us:
Yet let us not do this alone, as individuals. The Samaritan discovered an innkeeper who would care for the man; we too are called to unite as a family that is stronger than the sum of small individual members.
You can get your Good Samaritan on by joining a ministry such as St Vincent de Paul, volunteering at a food bank, and giving to a charity like Unbound. When we get to heaven at the end of our lives, don’t we want Jesus to say “I was a stranger and you welcomed me“.
You can find chapter two of Fratelli Tutti, as well as the rest of the encyclical at http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/encyclicals/documents/papa-francesco_20201003_enciclica-fratelli-tutti.html.
Working together, we can help take care of our common home.