I’ve wanted for some time to start a Scripture discussion series on this site, hopefully each week choosing one reading that we can exchange reflections about. Yesterday’s Gospel, with Jesus’ parable about the Good Samaritan, seems an excellent one to start with, as it is familiar to all of us and speaks very powerfully to me personally.
As I’ve written before, many of us tend to get caught up in the “macro” world, focusing on major national or international “causes” about which it seems we as individuals can do little. Of course, as the recent overturning of Roe v. Wade, after almost 50 years, attests, individuals, when we band together to work, pray, and persevere, can have an impact on major issues affecting millions of lives.
But sometimes, in our ambition to “change the world,” we lose sight of the day-to-day opportunities—and obligations—we have to give loving care and service to individuals right in our own midst. Do we respond to the lonely neighbor who needs companionship, the family member with a disability who needs our accompaniment on their difficult life journey, the local family who have fallen on hard economic times, the parishioner who needs support as caregiver to a terminally ill loved one—or, as the Good Samaritan did, the suffering victim of a violent crime whom we encounter on the street?
In these and myriad other situations that we all encounter in our daily lives, we are presented with opportunities to make an immediate difference in the lives of individual people who need our help, and our love.
The late Catholic columnist Bill Reel, whom I was blessed to know as a friend, once wrote about social and political activists who “love humanity, they’re just not too crazy about human beings.” As one whose career has focused a lot on public policy issues from a Catholic perspective, this has always been a particular challenge for me.
Fortunately, I have been surrounded by so many people in my life whose loving outreach to others constantly reminds me that love for humanity must begin with loving care and concern for individual people in difficult circumstances whom God brings into our lives. I see this every day in my wife Eileen and those of her siblings who live near us. It seems second nature for them to reach out in kindness to suffering people they encounter in our community. I see it in my own now-adult children, all three of whom have shown that same loving kindness to hurting people they encounter.
And this is what the parable of the Good Samaritan says to me: that if we really want to “change the world,” we must start by helping to change and improve the lives of the people right around us—in our families, communities, churches, workplaces—who want and need our loving care and kindness.
How about some feedback? What does this parable say to you?