Lord, Who Is My Neighbor?

Good Samaritan

(En Español)

Fr. Oscar Mendez, OFM

I’m always amazed every time Jesus gives us specific examples of his teachings, just in case some of us miss his message. Today’s Gospel talks to us about God’s provision through human labor. In the parable of the Good Samaritan, we can see God’s provision through the compassion of a foreign traveler. This is one of the best-known of all Jesus’ parables, though it only occurs in the Gospel of Luke, and it follows immediately after Luke’s account of the Great Commandment. In this Gospel, the lawyer begins by asking Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus replies that the key for eternal life is to observe the Great Commandment: “Love the Lord your God…and your neighbor as yourself.”

Just in case we ask the same question as the lawyer, Jesus gives us this wonderful parable. People who have never picked up a Bible will still recognize the meaning of the term “Good Samaritan” as someone who takes care of a stranger in need. The Samaritan is willing to spend his money on the stranger, and his time too. He also put his other business on hold to see to the needs of the injured stranger. The hero of this story spends his money on a stranger without any direct obligation to do so, nor even a thought of getting a good reward. For Jesus, to love God is to make anyone who needs our help into our “neighbor.” Sometimes our tendency is to meet all the needs of the world. This is not possible. The Samaritan doesn’t quit his job to go searching for every injured traveler, but he acts when he sees somebody in need in his life. The Samaritan takes a lot of risks to help the stranger, but he does it because he acts as if his own life were the one in question.

Another thing in this story is the ethnicity of the hero. Jesus’ people, the Jews, considered Samaritans ethnically and religiously inferior. Yet the Samaritan is more attuned to the Law of Moses than the Jewish religious leaders who pass by on the other side of the road. At work, we have many chances to be neighbors with co-workers, customers, and others, across ethnic or cultural divides. Being a Good Samaritan in the workplace means cultivating a specific awareness of the needs of the other. Often specific ethnic groups are deprived of recognition or promotion. A conscientious Christian should be the one to say, “are we giving this person fair treatment?” At the end, Jesus tells us also, “Go and do likewise.”

Peace and Good,

Father Oscar Mendez, OFM.
Associate Pastor, Mission San Luis Rey Parish

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