During the General Audience in St Peter’s Square, Pope Francis talks about the Good Samaritan parable. A man can “reverse the perspective.” The scribes – who do not stop to medicate a man lying in the street – understood neighbor as “my relatives, my countrymen, those of my own religion; in short, they want a clear rule that allows to classify the others”. Whereas for Jesus – who offers the parable of “a priest, a Levite, and a Samaritan, the first two of whom are linked to the worship of the temple, whereas the third is a schismatic Jew, considered an outsider and impure, that is to say, a Samaritan” – a neighbor is he “who showed mercy” to the injured man abandoned in the street.
In front of 25 thousand faithful, Bergoglio takes cue from today’s Gospel to touch on topical questions. “Faced with the suffering of so many people afflicted by hunger and injustice, we cannot remain spectators. What does it mean to ignore suffering? It means to ignore God, if I do not get closer to that ‘man, that woman, that elderly man or woman, or to the suffering child, I do not get closer to God.”
“Someone who knows the house of God and knows his mercy – the Pope has warned as part of his catechesis on the mercy in the New Testament – does not automatically know how to love his neighbor, not at all”. You can know “all the Bible, all the liturgy, you can know all about theology, but knowledge does not transform immediately into loving. Loving is another road. It is not just intelligence, it is something else. … The priest and the Levite see, but ignore; they look, but they do not act. But true worship does not exist if it does not translate into service to one’s neighbor.”
Instead, the Samaritan – he has noted – despite being “the most despised, the one whom no-one would have counted on “and who also had his commitments and things to do… when he saw the wounded man, did not pass by like the other two, but instead acted with compassion, he had compassion – the Pope has repeated – that is, his heart was moved”. “Here is the difference between the three of them: they saw, but their hearts remained closed and cold. Instead, the heart of the Samaritan was harmonized with the heart of God Himself. Indeed, compassion is an essential characteristic of God’s mercy. God has compassion for us; that is, He suffers with us, the words compassion itself means suffering together, the verb indicates the trembling heart, and in the gestures and the actions of the Good Samaritan we recognize God’s merciful action in the history of salvation.”
“Love – Francis has said – is not a vague feeling; it means taking care of the other paying a personal price, it means compromise, taking all the necessary steps up to identifying with the other. This is what ‘you shall love your neighbor as yourself’ means”. In fact, the Samaritan “acts with true mercy: he dresses the wounds” of the man left in the street by the robbers who had assaulted him; he “takes the man to an inn and takes care of him.”
The compassion he feels for the man who was left dying on the side of the road from Jerusalem to Jericho – Francis goes on explaining – “is the same compassion with which God comes to meet each one of us, comes close to us and never leaves”. “Each one of us can ask him/herself the following question and answer it in their heart: ‘Do I believe it? Do I believe that the Lord has compassion of me, a sinner with so many problems?'” – the Pontiff has urged those present. “And the answer is ‘yes’, but everyone has to search their heart and see if there is faith in this mercy of God, in the good God who comes close, caress us and patiently waits for us if we reject Him.”
At the end of the parable, “Jesus asks ‘Who do you think was neighbor?’. And the answer is finally clear: ‘who showed mercy on him.’ “At the beginning of the parable – Peter’s Successor has stressed – the dying man was the neighbor, whereas at the end it is the Samaritan; Jesus reverses the perspective: do not classify the others to see who is a neighbor and who is not.”
This parable – he has concluded – “is a wonderful gift for us, Jesus repeats to each one of us the words he told the scribe ‘go and do the same’. We are all called to follow the same path as the Good Samaritan: Jesus bends down to us, He makes Himself our servant, and in this way He saved us so that we too can love each other as He loved us.”