Why the Good Samaritan Matters Now More than Ever

By Ed Nunez, Economic Justice and Communications Intern

During the week of July 4th, our nation was profoundly affected by violence and civil unrest. Two African-American men were killed by police in Baton Rouge, LA and St. Paul, MN. Five police officers were killed while protecting peaceful protestors in Dallas, TX. These events, in some way, affected every American. No one should be killed at routine traffic stops or while protecting their communities.

And in light of these events, by the power of the Holy Spirit, the Sunday Mass readings for July 10th were incredibly relevant to what has been occurring in the U.S. recently – especially the Gospel from Luke. The Parable of the Good Samaritan is one of the most widely used Scripture passages in the Christian faith.

However, when it is read in context of current events, it takes an even deeper meaning. Today, this passage is vitally important to reflect on going forward.

In the story, a scholar wants to know what he must do to inherit eternal life and Jesus responds with the commandment about loving God with all your heart, being, strength, and mind, and loving your neighbor as yourself. The scholar then asks Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus then discusses the Parable of the Good Samaritan, who, after seeing a man in the roadside in Jericho who was beaten and robbed, came to his aid and was moved by compassion for and with him.

The important point to remember about the story is that the man who was robbed was Jewish and Samaritans and Jewish people did not get along. The two previous travelers, a priest and Levite, did not come to the man’s assistance because, in that time, they considered the man unclean.

Jesus asks the scholar, “Who was neighbor to the robber’s victim?” and the scholar responds, “The one who treated him with mercy.” Jesus specifically asks about the robber’s victim not just if someone was a just neighbor. By asking this question, Jesus shows compassion for the victim and shows that he deserves dignity. The scholar’s answer of mercy is also important because it is more than just an act of charity or help, but justice and compassion.

But still, why is this parable so important for us today? In a time of divisive political rhetoric, violence, corruption, and unrest, we need to confront if we are truly being neighbors to those around us. What does “becoming neighbor” look like?

Are we actually crossing the road, like the Samaritan did, to help someone in need?

Are we taking the time to have meaningful and maybe difficult conversations with others about race, class, privilege, policing, and discrimination?

Are we willing to create and become a part of inclusive and diverse communities where we can learn from one another’s differences?

Mercy and compassion are the fruits of peace and justice. The Samaritan shows us that being and becoming neighbor for another may put us out of our comfort zone, but the sooner we all become neighbors, the sooner our world can become a better place for all God’s people.