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Wednesday, April 27, 2016

General Audience on the Good Samaritan

Thaïs morning's General Audience took place in Saint Peter's Square, where the Holy Father met with pilgrims from Italy and from all the corners of the world.

Catechesis of the Holy Father, Pope Francis
for the General Audience

Dear brothers and sisters, good morning.

Today, we reflect on the parable of the Good Samaritan (cf Lk 10:25-37).  A doctor of the Law puts Jesus to the test with this question: Master, what must we do to inherit eternal life?  (Lk 10:25). Jesus asks him to furnish the answer himself, and this he gives perfectly: You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbour as yourself (Lk 10:27).  Then Jesus concludes: Do this and you will live (Lk 10:28).

The man then asks another question that becomes precious to us: Who is my neighbour? (Lk 10:29), as though to suggest: My relatives? My fellow citizens? Those who follow my religion? ... What he is searching for is a clear rule that will allow him to distinguish between those who are his neighbours and those that are not, with whom he can become a neighbour and with whom he cannot.

And Jesus responds with a parable, that focuses on a priest, a Levite and a Samaritan.  The first two are figures that are linked to the life of the Temple, to worship; the third is a schismatic Jew, considered to be a stranger, a foreigner, a impure pagan, namely the Samaritan.  On the road from Jerusalem to Jericho, the priest and the Levite encounter a dying man who brigands have assaulted, robbed and abandoned.  In other such situations, the Law of the Lord prescribed an obligation to help him, but both of them passed by without stopping.  They were in a hurry ... maybe the priest looked at his watch and said: But I will be late for Mass ... I have to say Mass.  The other one said: But I don't know if the Law would permit me to help him because there is blood, and I would be impure ... Both of them go on their way and neither of them helps him.  Here the parable offers us a first lesson: it is not a given thing that someone who frequents God's house and has experienced His mercy is able to love his neighbour.  This is not automatic!  You can know the whole bible, and all the liturgical rules, you can know everything about theology, but just because you know these things does not mean that you know how to love.  Love has a another path, we need intelligence but we need something else ... The priest and the Levite saw, but they ignored; the looked but they did not provide.  Yet true worship cannot exist if it is not transformed into service to our neighbour.  Let us never forget this: faced with the suffering of so many people who are destroyed by hunger, by violence and by injustices, we cannot remain as spectators.  What does it mean to ignore another man's suffering?  It means that we are ignoring God!  If I do not stay close to that man, to that woman, to that child, to that elderly person who is suffering, I am not staying close to God.

Now let us come to the centre of the parable: the Samaritan, that is to say in fact, the one who was scorned, the one on whom no one would have wagered anything, and who nevertheless himself had his fair share of commitments and things to do, when he saw the wounded man, did not pass by like the other two had, because they had commitments at the Temple, but he had compassion for him (Lk 10:33).  The gospel says: He had compassion, which means that his heart was moved, he was moved from within.  This is the difference.  The other two saw but their hearts remained closed, cold.  By comparison, the Samaritan's heart was attuned to God's heart.  In fact, compassion is an essential characteristic of God's mercy.  God has compassion for us.  What does this mean?  He suffers with us, with our sufferings.  He feels them.  Compassion means sharing with.  The verb indicates that something within us is moved, trembles when we see someone else's suffering.  In the gestures and actions of the good Samaritan, we see the merciful action of God throughout the history of salvation.  This is the same compassion with which the Lord comes to encounter each one of us: He does not ignore us, he knows our sufferings, he knows how much we need his help and his consolation.  He comes close to us and never abandons us.  Every one of us should ask ourselves, and respond in our hearts: Do I believe this?  Do I believe that the Lord has compassion for me, just as I am, a sinner, with so many problems and preoccupations?  Thinking about this, the answer is: Yes!  But every one of us should look into our own hearts and ask whether we trust in God's compassion, the compassion of God who is so good and who is close to us, who heals us, who caresses us.  Even if we refuse him, he always waits: he is patient, always standing beside us.

The Samaritan conducted himself with true mercy: he tended to the man's wounds, took him to an inn, personally took care of him and provided for his assistance.  All this teaches us that compassion, love, is not an abstract sentiment, but it means taking care of others, to the point of paying personally.  It means committing ourselves to all the necessary steps in order to come close to another person, even to identifying ourselves with that person: love your neighbour as you love yourself.  This is the Lord's Commandment.  Having concluded the parable, Jesus turns the question back to the doctors of the Law and asks: Which one of these three, do you think, proved himself to be a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of robbers? (Lk 10:36).  The response is finally unequivocal: The one who had compassion for him (Lk 10:27).  At the beginning of the parable, for the priest and the Levite, the neighbour was the dying man; in the end, the neighbour is the Samaritan who stayed close to the dying man.  Jesus turns the perspective around: it is not up to us to examine others in order to discover who is our neighbour and who is not.  We can become a neighbour to anyone we meet who is in need, and this will be the case if we have compassion in our hearts: if we have the capacity to suffer with someone else.

This parable is a stupendous gift for all of us, and it is also a commitment!  To each of us, Jesus repeats what he said to the doctors of the Law: You too, go and do likewise (Lk 10:37).  We are all called to travel the same path as the good Samaritan, who is the figure of Christ: Jesus has bent down to us, made himself our servant, and therefore he has saved us, so that we too can love as He has loved us, in the same way.

The Holy Father's catechesis was then summarized in various languages, and His Holiness offered greetings to each group of the faithful in attendance.  To English-speaking pilgrims, he said:

I greet the English-speaking visitors taking part in today’s Audience, particularly the pilgrims from England, Sweden, Slovakia, China, Indonesia, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, the Philippines, Canada and the United States of America. In the joy of the Risen Lord, I invoke upon you and your families the loving mercy of God our Father. May the Lord bless you all!
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