THEME: Who is your neighbour?

BY: Fr. Justin Nzekwe.



In a world where many limit their help and support to members of their own families, race or those who have some kind of affiliation with them, Jesus in the gospel reading of today, uses the story of the Good Samaritan to remind us about who is our neighbour.

Obviously, from the story, a Jewish priest and a Levite could not help a man who was beaten and robbed by thieves and left in a critical condition. This is because they thought he was dead, and in Jewish culture, touching a dead body makes one unclean. The priest and the Levite therefore decided to avoid the man, in order not to defile themselves ritually. For them, preserving their ritual cleanliness is more important than showing compassion on their fellow human being in difficulty.

However, as the Good Samaritan was passing by, he saw this man beaten and robbed by thieves. He was moved with compassion at the sight of the man that he approached him, poured oil and wine over his wounds and bandaged them. Then he lifted him up on his own donkey, took him to an inn and cared for him. Unfortunately, during Jesus’s time, the Jews and the Samaritans despised each other. Yet this man did not allow his background to overshadow his humanity. He didn’t first of all ask if the man was a Jew or a Samaritan before helping him. For him, it is saving humanity first.

Obviously, the Priest and the Levite in this story, represent some devout Christians today who fill up our churches every Sunday to hear the word of God, only to select the ones they want to obey. The experience of the Good Samaritan reminds us that no matter how devoted we think we are, our neglect of simple acts of charity can still be a hindrance on our way to sanctity. Being compassionate implies recognizing the suffering of others, and taking necessary action to help. It also implies speaking up for those who cannot speak for themselves, and also defending the rights of the poor and needy.

However, before you judge and condemn the action of this Jewish priest and Levite, you may first of all place yourself in their position. If you were the one who saw a stranger in such difficulty at a lonely road, and let us assume that you do not have phone to call the police or an ambulance, will you be able to help this man? Will you rather interpret it that the man was merely faking to have been, while possibly he might be a criminal. Will you pass by, because you wouldn’t want to be late to the church or other serious appointment? Will you rather complain of strangers who have refused to go back to their countries and also do not keep the laws? Will you have compassion and help the man in that lonely dangerous road? The story of the Good Samaritan serves as a lesson to us all who give excuses to justify our lack of compassion towards our fellow human beings.
I shall end this homily with a story told about an American photographer and a tourist who visited one of the African countries few months after a civil war. On one of his tours around the country, he took a picture of a two year old child who was about to die as a result of hunger. The tourist saw a vulture perching beside the child waiting for the child to die so that it can eat up the flesh of the child. He got interested and decided to take a photo. The tourist could save this child by giving her the extra snacks he had on his back pack. But he didn’t want to go closer to the child. Few minutes later, the child died and the vulture began to eat the flesh of the child before his eyes, while he kept taking pictures of the child and the vulture. The tourist did not touch the child, because they were warned not to touch the locals in order not to be infected by a disease suffered by most of the children. And because of that, he couldn’t save the child. On returning back to America, he submitted the pictures for awards. He was lucky that the picture win awards, and he was paid a huge amount of money. However, he committed suicide two days after, because he could not forgive himself for watching a child die in such ugly way without at least helping her.

The first reading reminds us that God’s commandments are not too high for you, nor too far from you. He is not in heaven, for you to say: “Who will go up to heaven for us, to take him and let us hear him, so that we can execute him?”. It is not on the other side of the sea, for you to say: “Who will cross the sea for us, to take it from us and make us hear it, so that we can execute it?”. (Deut. 30: 11-13). God do not actually need so much from us. He wishes that You will love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself. We pray in this holy mass that the Lord will make us compassionate, so that we can see Christ in everybody we meet, even if the person is not of the same race, color, religion, social class, and even religion. With love beyond boundaries, we can conquer the world.

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