The reading at church this weekend was the story of the Good Samaritan which is always one that I pay special attention to. I believe in this to my core - helping others, being a good person, finding the good in people. But for those of us who were privileged enough to be at St. Patrick for mass this weekend, listening to Father Matthew's homily on this reading brought it to an entirely more personal level. I couldn't help but get chills as he spoke, "But this is NOT a story about being nice. This is a story about transforming the world through the power of the Gospel."
He went on to say that there were three types of people along the road from Jerusalem to Jericho: the robbers - "what is yours is mine at whatever cost"; those people represented by the priest and the Levite - “what’s mine is mine— and I must protect it even if it means you get hurt in the process"; and lastly, the Samaritan - "whose motivation, much to the surprise of Jesus’ audience – is love."
It got me to thinking, where do I fall in these groups of people? I could check the "robbers" off my list fairly quickly, but am I truly a "Samaritan"? Do I lead with love and compassion? Do I, as Father Matthew said, lead with the thought that:
My safety is yours - if you need it.
My security is yours - if you need it.
My resources are yours - if you need them.
My health is tied to your health.
My well-being is tied to your well-being.
Or, do go about my life trying to be kind to everyone, trying to be a good citizen, trying to "fly under the radar" and not "rock the boat"? Do I truly go out of my way for the greater good of others?
If I'm being honest, the answer would have to be no. How many times do I drive home from work, open my garage door, pull in, and close it as quickly as I can just because I don't WANT to talk to anyone who might be out in their yard. How many times do I sit in my house, checking my Ring Doorbell camera, and pretending NOT to be home when someone rings the bell? Do I lend a hand to someone in need, or do I keep my windows rolled up and drive right by?
But who can blame me, right? The world is a scary place right now. I'm better off in my own home behind closed doors where I can keep myself and my family safe. I'm better off with rolled up windows and locked doors where I don't have to worry about the harm that could be done to me otherwise. To quote Father Matthew again, "When fear is the motivation of our lives - we tend to cling to our own safety and our own individual rights. When fear is the motivation of our lives - we end up placing our hope in thinking: “It is against my rights.” OR “don’t tell me what to do” as opposed to Jesus’ greatest commandments: “Love God and love your neighbor.”
There is a lot of fear in our world right now. A lot of sadness, grief, anger, too. How do we rise above it all and continue to be the "Samaritan's" God has called us to be? How do we stand for what we believe in, while lifting up those whose beliefs differ from our own? It's no easy task, is it? I love my neighbor, until my neighbor disagrees with me - because then I want to argue with him on Facebook. Do we truly listen to understand, or listen only to find things we can debate? Do we put ourselves in others' shoes before we make judgements?
I wish I had all the perfect right answers and that I knew exactly the right things to say and do. I don't. I do know that I don't want to live a life of fear, and maybe I can't change the world, but I can do my part to change the world in which I live - and who knows, maybe that is a decent place to start. As we prepare for a new school year to begin, I feel an obligation to be that Samaritan. An obligation to lead with love and compassion. An obligation to model for our students who God has called each one of us to be. In doing this, we will do our part in making the world around us a little kinder, a little gentler, and a little more peaceful, too. Our kids deserve that, don't you think?
If you haven't yet, I highly recommend you check out Father Matthew's homily by clicking the button below. It's a beautiful reminder as we finish up the last several weeks of summer break.