Some weeks ago, I shared in my homily, about “Arzu”, one of our Cathedral Bangladeshi construction worker. When Arzu’s 1 1/2 year old son Salim was suddenly diagnosed to have terminal cancer of the liver, all his fifty fellow Bangladeshi workers together with eight other Bangladeshi workers from another construction site collected a total of about $4,600; averaging about $80 each person, to help Arzu’s desperate needs. A close friend and fellow worker of Arzu, Humayun contributed $300 of his $500 he received from his half a month salary.
When I sought help from Fr Cyril, a Jesuit priest in Tamil Nadu, he flew in from the South of India to Calcutta to help Arzu and his son to get admitted to a specialised Cancer hospital. Arzu’s son was treated by a Hindu doctor who tried her very best to save Salim’s life. When I casually shared this story with some neophytes, in my RCIA session, without any promptings, one group of about eight persons made a collection of $3,000 from amongst themselves. Another Singaporean, who do not wish to be named, assisted me throughout all these arrangements and herself contributed generously to the financial needs of Arzu. And eventually, when we heard that Salim died, we were all so sad for Arzu and his beautiful looking and intelligent son Salim, whom he was only able to embrace and kiss for the first time, when he returned to attend to his critical illness.
While we were all very sad that Salim had died, I was at the same time very heartened to see the Compassion that was shown to Arzu. We see the great compassion of the Muslim Bangladeshis towards their fellow brother Arzu in his needs. We also see the Catholic priest together with the Hindu doctor in India, and the different Catholics in Singapore all rallying around in support of Arzu, our Muslim brother who was in need.
My brothers and sisters in Christ, in today’s Gospel of the Parable of the “Good Samaritan,” Jesus is challenging you and I to be radically “Compassionate” to our neighbours who are suffering regardless of who they are. In other words, we are each “called” by Jesus to go beyond all the boundaries, narrow perceptions, prejudices, and to tear down the walls that we have consciously or unconsciously built. We are “called” by Jesus to transcend all these artificial obstacles and hindrances that divide and worse still destroy the human race. We are “called” to accept differences and build genuine and lasting “Peace, Justice, Respect and Love” in the world as Jesus has shown us, through His Life and Teachings.
During the time of Jesus, the phrase “Good Samaritan” is a contradiction of terms (an oxymoron) for Jews and Samaritans were hostile enemies. It is like trying to use a phrase like a “good Terrorist” or a “compassionate Drug Trafficker” as these phrases don’t make sense for us today.
However, in order to explain the kind of “Compassion” that “deserves” eternal life, Jesus uses the parable of the “Good Samaritan.” In other words, Jesus is proclaiming to you and I that to gain eternal life and live with God for all eternity, we must begin to show the needed “Compassion” that is willing to “love God with all our hearts, mind, soul and strength . . . and our neighbour as ourselves, including our “enemies”, regardless of who they may be.
The question that we need to answer personally today is “Are we willing to show such Compassion, that Jesus proclaims, in our daily living”? If not, are we then saying to Jesus, “Jesus, I am not too serious about wanting to receive the divine gift of eternal life that God, Your Father wants to give me?” Or are we saying, “Jesus, I want to show such Compassion, but it is too painful for me to overcome the deep hurts and harms that these people have inflicted on me and my family or am I saying to Jesus, “Jesus, I value my own needs and comforts too much. So, I am afraid, I do not have the time, energy and money to care for the needs of others, whether it is the Church in needs of funds, or the poor and needy of the world?”
My sisters and brothers in Christ, if we reflect on the Gospel more deeply we will notice that the “lawyer” who asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbour”, is not the kind of professional legal lawyer that we understand “lawyers” in our society today. He is an expert in the Law of Moses who wanted to trap Jesus into saying that there is no need to obey the Mosaic Law to gain eternal life because in the Mosaic Law, you only need to love the Israelites as your “neighbour” and no one else need to be loved in order to gain eternal life.
The answer Jesus gave to the Jewish lawyer came as a shock to him as it was beyond his thinking and belief that we need to love non-Jews. To contrast the meaning of our need to love others unconditionally, Jesus reminded the “lawyer” that “True and Authentic” Love must be extended to all peoples, regardless of their race, religion, language, culture and nationality. And, to this Jesus said, like the Samaritan in the parable we must show compassion to all peoples, including our enemies.
My brothers and sisters in Christ, in concrete and practical terms, if we truly wish to live the challenges of today’s Gospel, then there are some important questions that we seriously need to consider and bring to prayer and seek the Holy Spirit’s Light and strength to be the Compassionate Christ to those who are suffering. Some of these questions are as follows:
First, “Do I know of anyone who has hurt and harmed me deeply, and for a long time and have not been on taking terms, because I have considered him to be my “enemy”? In the context of today’s Gospel, such a person is the “wounded and dying” at the side of the road that I am passing. Am I willing to reach out to the person with compassion, like the “Good Samaritan” or will I respond like the “priest and the Levite” who would just walked by and ignore the neighbour who is in need of healing and Compassion?
A second related question is, “Are these wounded persons that I am tempted to pass by, instead of showing compassion, a person who is related to me and meant to be close to me like: my spouse, my children, my family members – whether grandparents, parents, siblings and relatives?
Thirdly, for those of us who are very blessed to have good and close relationships within our family, Jesus would then like to “call and challenge” us to reflect on people beyond our families like our colleagues, church members and people whom we know are depressed, sick, aged and bereaved? Are we passing them by and are we telling ourselves, “Well, there is very little we can do for them; it is their life and not mine, so, I will just say a prayer for them, and let God take care of them . . . as I have enough of problems and needs in my own life?”
Finally, the reflection on today’s Gospel would not be complete if we do not include the poor and needy of today’s world. These are the masses; the millions who suffer so much in today’s world. They are those whom societies around the world consider to be “strangers” instead of “brothers and sisters of the human race.” These “strangers” are people who are commonly called the: “migrant workers, refugees, abused children, prisoners, drug addicts, alcoholics, AIDs victims, physically and mentally handicapped and the like. Societies around the world would consider their needs to be too complex and overwhelming. As such, to provide for them would be too great a burden as the rationale is that we need to care first for our own people and society. Such responses are precisely the response of the “Priest and the Levite” in today’s Gospel.
As I conclude, let us remind ourselves that the basic “call and challenge” that Jesus is putting forward to us today, through the “Parable of the Good Samaritan” is to ask ourselves, “Do we really want to inherit the divine gift of eternal life?” And if we are serious, then let us put our desires into practice each day of our lives. Let us be Jesus’ Compassionate Love to people who are suffering so much daily regardless of who they are; whether they are our family members or they are the faceless millions who have no dignity in today’s societies.
In short, “Do we want to respond like the Levite and the Priest who have many reasons for not showing the needed compassion, or do we want to respond more wholeheartedly who like the Muslims and the different people in our true story who, regardless of what race, religion or language responded promptly and reached out to Arzu, when his son was dying, and become the Christ-like person; the “Good Samaritan” in today’s Gospel?The final choice and decision lie in our hands, but, a more fundamental question that Jesus asks of you and I is, “Do you want the divine gift of eternal life?” And if our answer is yes, Jesus would say to us, “Then, be like the Good Samaritan; be more compassionate to those who are suffering; especially those who are within your family, or the poor and needy around you.”
Msgr Philip Heng,S.J.
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