When reading this familiar Good Samaritan gospel, about that unknown and unlucky traveler who fell into the hands of robbers, images flashed in my mind of the recent, senseless shootings in Orlando, FL, Baton Rouge, LA, St. Paul, MN, and Dallas, TX.
Last week I proposed that we pledge to speak fearlessly the word of God revealed to us by Jesus of Nazareth. Today, I propose we pledge to love our friends and those who are different from us, even our enemies.
The history of our country is full of movements designed to counter injustices against workers, religious groups, women, people of color, gays and lesbians. On the other hand, there are just as many counterpoint movements and individual voices that spew hatred and prejudice.
The Southern Poverty Law Center tracks domestic terrorist groups. It reports that over 900 hate and extremist movements and 1,000 anti-government organizations are operating at alarming levels throughout our country today. Many are white supremacists who carry out violent acts.
So, who are the characters in this good Samaritan story? What might we learn from their behavior? How do we identify with their actions given the realities at home and abroad where “other” persons are robbed of opportunities that prevent them from continuing their own journeys?
The Samaritans were a racially mixed society that lived in the northern kingdom of Israel. They were despised by the Jews because, among other things, they practiced a deviant form of Judaism. Jesus went out of his way (literally) to change Jewish hatred of the Samaritans. We remember his meeting at Jacob’s well with the Samaritan woman, Photina.
The priest in the story could not touch the victim for fear of being defiled himself! The Levite, who also had religious duties, thought that if the priest did not stop why should he. Finally, the Samaritan, a hated enemy of the Jews, felt compassion for the victim of injustice. He took risks to make sure the person would get better. Once again, in telling this story, and by his own actions, Jesus disavowed prejudices aimed at the Samaritans.
When the lawyer in the story asked Jesus how to get to heaven, he heard that one must become a neighbor to anyone and everyone in need. One must reach out with compassion to all people, even to one’s enemies.  When life-saving mercy is shown to others, Marilyn Salmon suggests “otherness” stops and we experience instead our common humanity.
In the letter to the Colossians Paul implies that redemption does not take place outside this world. Rather it is the restoration of this created world, one that has fallen into evil hands. The recent, shooting crimes remind us that evil has a strong grip on humanity and that something terribly wrong is happening in our nation that cannot be ignored.
The summer of 1967 brought racial disorders to American cities. The 1968 report of the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders concluded: “Our nation is moving toward two societies, one black, one white — separate and unequal.” When will it ever change?
We can pray and trust that God will rescue us (Psalm 69). However, to be a neighbor to someone else requires more than having general sentiments of benevolence. It means pledging to love not only those who are like us but also those who are different from us.
It demands that we take interest in the injustices in our communities and that we do something concrete for people in need.  As religious people we cannot stand by and do nothing.
- John J. Pilch. The Cultural World of Jesus, Sunday by Sunday, Cycle C (Collegeville: The Liturgical Press. 1996) 109-111
- Reginald H. Fuller and Daniel Westberg. Preaching the Lectionary: The Word of God for the Church Today. (Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 1984 – Revised Edition) 485-486, 68-69.