When we think of the word ‘neighbour’, we may think literally – of a person living next door to us. However, a neighbour can be classified as anyone in society since all are made in the image and likeness of God. Everyone that we may come into contact with is our neighbour.
The poem “Mending Wall” by the 20thcentury American poet Robert Frost, captures a negative element of what neighbours in the context of the poem is all about. In this context, there is a line which goes like this “Good fences make good neighbours”. Fences here is a symbol of division. The fence is used to keep out anyone of trespassing on the other’s property. In other words, “Mind your own business”. “Don’t get involved”. And yet, in another line Frost writes, “Something there is that does not love a wall”.
In an earlier gospel of Jesus, He sums up the ten commandments in just two, i.e. love of God and love of neighbour. These two commandments are put to the test in the Gospel of Luke and the other Readings for today.
In the Psalm we read, “…Lord answer, for Your love is kind; in Your compassion, turn towards me… The Lord listens to the needy and does not spurn His servants in their chains”. In the same way, He calls us to be compassionate to those in need.
In the Second Reading from the letter of St Paul to the Colossians, we read, “…Now the Church is His Body, He is its head… all things are to be reconciled through Him and for Him… when He made peace by His death on the Cross”. Again, we can learn from Jesus to live in peace and reconciliation and to forgive each other from the heart.
The question of “Who is my neighbour?” is a challenge for us today. Jesus is full of compassion and turns towards us in our needs. He does not like to see us suffer or to be bound in sin. He frees us from our chains that bind us by reconciling us to Himself through His death on the Cross. In the same way, He asks us to unchain Him, to set Him free, in our neighbour.
In today’s Gospel of Luke 10:25-37, there is a lawyer who tries to put Jesus to the test by asking Him a very ordinary question, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus knew his heart and tests him right back by asking him “What is written in the law? What do you read there?” The lawyer gives Jesus the correct answer, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbour as yourself.” Jesus was impressed with him and said, “Do this and life is yours”. The lawyer is still unsatisfied with how Jesus answered him and so asks further, “And who is my neighbour?” The way Jesus answers him is by telling a parable. Three kinds of people are identified in this story; the priest and the Levite, who pass by on the other side; and the Good Samaritan who gives a helping hand to someone in need.
Perhaps the point that Jesus was trying to make challenges us all. “Who is my neighbour?” What kind of neighbour am I to people? Am I like the priest who observes a need but does not respond? Or am I like the Levite who also casts a blind eye to the need in his neighbour?
Within society today, many people sit on the fence, who see a need but cast a blind eye, because they are scared of getting involved or fear criticism from others for crossing a boundary. They prefer to keep their distance and stay ignore someone in need so as to avoid reaching out.
Today’s gospel is a practical one because it challenges us to get off our high horses and to respond where someone is in need. What are the needs and challenges today in society in which we can be more like the good Samaritan – and more like Jesus – in coming to the need of our neighbour?
- There are basic needs which the poor face each day, like lack of food, clothes, water and shelter.How can I be a neighbour in this regard?
- There are other needs, like giving a listening ear.How willing am I to give of our time to just listen to someone who needs to unburden their hearts?
- There are social needs to be met – e.g., in different ways of making a stranger feel welcome.How willing are we to welcome a stranger in our midst?
The needs are endless and the response we give is one that beckons us to identify with the cry of the poor and let Christ into our midst by aiding Christ in our neighbour, by unbinding Him from chains of oppression, poverty, hunger, nakedness and by setting Him free. When we do this, we shall live. Not only do we find life in the good that we do to others, but we have been beacons of hope and given others life through simple acts of kindness. This is how we bring the Kingdom closer. When we do this, we shall live.
FOR FURTHER REFLECTION
- With whom do you identify most in this story?Why?
- Who have been Good Samaritans in your life?
- What makes a Good Samaritan really good?
- To whom will you be a Good Samaritan this week?
(Sr Columbia Fernandez O.P)