Non-Discriminatory Compassion


14 July 2007 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Luke 10, 25-37 The Good Samaritan

The Parable of the Good Samaritan is found only in Luke. The parable is important because it expands the meaning of ‘neighbor’ and illustrates that compassion is for all people. The story begins with a victim of robbery attack who was left on the road to die. Three passers-by saw him: a priest, who avoided him in view of purity laws; a Levite, a priestly class, who avoided him; and a Samaritan, considered an enemy of the Jews, who helped him. Today, the popularity of the parable can be found in how people understand the present-day Samaritan. A Samaritan today means a generous individual who provides aid to a needy person without hesitation. Thus, a Samaritan is someone who gives a positive response to the call of the Gospel. Their response is non-discriminatory. Their generosity is beyond race or segmentation or classification that we use in our lives.

The image of the Samaritan can be used therefore in several contexts. The reverse order is also true: an atheist helping a Catholic, a Catholic eating comfortably with a born-again evangelical, a homophobic assisting a homosexual, members of Alpha Phi Omega (APO) assisting a Tau Gamma, an UPSILON helping a member of the Sigma Rho in law school, an Ateneo basketball player befriending a UP Maroons cager (which actually happens), but greater still, an Atenean having fun with a La Sallite (joke!).

The parable’s message is explosive for many of us whose greatest talent is to categorize, classify, and catalogue people. The parable teaches us that an individual of a social group they disapprove or consider a rival can exhibit a superior moral behavior to their opponent in need. It also means that not sharing the same faith, interest or affiliate is no excuse to behave poorly. It also means that we can rise above our prejudices and let our human heart see the heart of another in need.

The parable also has some spiritual implications. The people expected to help, like the priest and the Levites, did not lift a finger to help the dying man while the Samaritan, whom we didn’t expect to help, did offer his services and restored the person to life. During the ministry of Jesus, Jesus helped those who are considered outcasts and sinners. For the priest and the Levite, to touch a dead person means to go through the purity rituals in order to be clean again may be inconvenient. Holy people do not associate with those who are ‘sick’ or else they too become impure.

But like all parables of Jesus, the image of the Samaritan sticks because it asks rather bluntly: Would we help only when it is convenient? Should we go out of our way to show compassion, even if it means to suffer the brunt of gossip and persecution?

Let me give you a case: A prostitution den is not a place for priests. Any priest who would go there would scandalize many. So who then could be sent there?

Two saints were reformed prostitutes: Margaret of Cortona and Mary of Egypt. Two saints worked for the reformation of prostitutes: St. John Eudes and a Jesuit, St. John Francis Regis.

2 comments:

Great Understanding Rules Over ME said...

Hi Fr. Jeboy, I just want to share something that I remembered when you mentioned the "hanging question" in this Sunday's homily. Back in 1998/1999, when I was still a resident member in UPSCA, we had an exposure trip called the "Red Light District". We went to a certain prostitution den at Welcome Rotonda as students of a Sociology class (we didn't say that we're in a Catholic org...for obvious reasons, like that of a priest going in the same place). We had the chance to interact with the ladies in the place and to see first-hand what really happens inside it. As a woman, part of me was ashamed then(judgmental) of their condition (no choice sila...what?!). However, as our post-activity processing progressed, I didn't only realize how blessed I am with my familial and financial security, but how blessed I am that I know my options, I have good choices to choose, and I can exercise my right to choose. After the processing, I found myself ashamed, not of the ladies, but with the "system" and the people that pulled them to the pits (the ones who said that they don't have any choice). The experience had opened my mind to certain realities that must be changed and to personalities that could change those realities. My pity towards them had turn into an understanding that I cannot change them as a person or I may not have the power to totally change the system, but I can help others realize their better options in life.
*Hope this made some sense... =)*

*>Marge Cruz<*

Jessel Gerard said...

Thank you very much Marge. The point really is an Ignatian motto (a Jesuit principle): "Go where there is greatest need." Sometimes our categories prevent many from ministering to some groups of people for fear of gossip or unpopularity. Of course it would be a challenging area: the last paragraph proves that there are saints who have become holier because of their daring and caring. But now, there are religious organizations who cater to those who are victims of discrimination. Women and gender issues have used this parable to illustrate that beyond our categories is the call to love. It also challenges Christians to scour the world for people who needs our compassion.