The Good Samaritan (after Delacroix), Vincent Van Gogh, 1890
Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)
Readings (Jerusalem Bible: Australia, England & Wales, India [optional], Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, Scotland, South Africa)
Gospel Luke 10:25-37 (Revised Standard Version – Catholic Edition)
And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, "Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" He said to him, "What is written in the law? How do you read?" And he answered, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself." And he said to him, "You have answered right; do this, and you will live." But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?"
Jesus replied, "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him, and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was; and when he saw him, he had compassion, and went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; then he set him on his own beast and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, 'Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.' Which of these three, do you think, proved neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?" He said, "The one who showed mercy on him." And Jesus said to him, "Go and do likewise."
After lunch today I was talking to a parishioner from St Columba's Cathedral, Oban, here in the Diocese of Argyll and the Isles in western Scotland, surely one of the most scenic dioceses in the world. He told me about some of his Irish ancestors. About four generations back one of them was widowed and married a second wife who bore him four children. Sadly, her husband died when the children were still young. The family of her husband's first wife managed to throw her and her children out so that they could keep the house.
The young widow and children took to the road and headed north. In a village not too far away they met a family who saw their plight and took them in, giving them a new home. Some years passed and one of the widow's children married one of the children in their host family. The man who told me this is descended from that couple.
His story shows two extremes, rejection based on greed and welcome based on generosity, a willingness to get involved in the sufferings of others and to offer them a way out of their situation.
In his homily last Monday at Mass in Lampedusa, the tiny Italian island where so many refugees from north Africa have landed while others died in trying to reach it, Pope Francis referred to this Sunday's gospel: 'Where is your brother?' Who is responsible for this blood? . . . Today no one in the world feels responsible for this; we have lost the sense of fraternal responsibility; we have fallen into the hypocritical attitude of the priest and of the servant of the altar that Jesus speaks about in the parable of the Good Samaritan: We look upon the brother half dead by the roadside, perhaps we think 'poor guy,' and we continue on our way, it’s none of our business; and we feel fine with this. We feel at peace with this, we feel fine! The culture of well-being, that makes us think of ourselves, that makes us insensitive to the cries of others, that makes us live in soap bubbles, that are beautiful but are nothing, are illusions of futility, of the transient, that brings indifference to others, that brings even the globalization of indifference. In this world of globalization we have fallen into a globalization of indifference. We are accustomed to the suffering of others, it doesn’t concern us, it’s none of our business.
Further on Pope Francis asks, 'Who among us has wept for these things, and things like this?' Who has wept for the deaths of these brothers and sisters? Who has wept for the people who were on the boat? For the young mothers carrying their babies? For these men who wanted something to support their families? We are a society that has forgotten the experience of weeping, of 'suffering with': the globalization of indifference has taken from us the ability to weep!
The Good Samaritan, like the Prodigal Son, is as real to us as are the members of our our own family. Yet he exists only in a story, but one that touches our hearts and challenges our values, if we allow it to do so. It's not a story about 'them' doing something helpful to others 'out there' but about one individual, a member of a group that Jews generally looked down on, taking personal responsibility in helping another individual suffering right in front of him.
Fr Patrick McCaffrey, 1944-2010. Photo by Fr Gary Walker, April 2010
Fr Pat McCaffrey was a classmate of mine who died suddenly in Pakistan on 18 May 2010. His first mission was Fiji, where he worked especially with Indian-Fijians and becoming fluent in Hindi. He was then part of the pioneering Columban group that went to Pakistan in 1979. Later he worked with people of Pakistani origin in northern England, living in Bradford. He celebrated Mass once a month with Pakistani Catholics in Nelson. Much of his work in Bradford was with refugees from the troubled Middle East. He was then reassigned to Fiji. But his final posting was back to Pakistan.
Father Pat's niece Siobhan McCaffrey describes his death in Following in Father Pat's Footseps, an article she wrote after visiting Pakistan: On our last day, we travelled to the town of Murree, a seven hour drive from Lahore, situated on the side of a steep hill, in the foothills of the Himalayas. Murree was where Father Pat died. He had been visiting lay missionaries there. He had left the convent [of the Presentation Sisters where he had just celebrated Mass] around 6:00am to catch a bus to Rawalpindi. He was rushing to catch the bus when he died. The only person around was a street-sweeper, considered the lowest of the low in Pakistan’s caste system.
This man had seen Father Pat holding on to the rails outside the compound and then fall back onto the road. He went to his aid but was unable to help. He raised the alarm at the convent and the Sisters came.
We thanked the street-sweeper for trying to help our uncle. He apologized for not being able to save him and explained that it was his moral duty to try, but that God had decided to take him and there was nothing he could do.
Father Pat's whole life was that of a follower of Jesus who had never forgotten the experience of weeping, of 'suffering with' the poor. And God surely blessed him in allowing him to celebrate Mass just before he died and in sending a man from the poorest of the poor to be the first to come to his aid, a Muslim who, like Father Pat himself, had never forgotten the experience of weeping, of 'suffering with' others.
Siobhan McCaffrey (left) at her Uncle's grave