Today’s reading of the Parable of the Good Samaritan is one of the most well-known stories from the Bible. While it has some problems, it has a powerful message of compassion and generosity for us today. The first problem is the traditional interpretation of this parable is anti-Jewish, the “good Samaritan” and the “bad” Jew. It suggests Jewish religious sensibility against impurities superseded compassion. This is wrong. People often take Jesus out of his Jewish culture and make him the first Christian. Jesus lived and died a faithful Jew. There is nothing wrong with the Jewish religion and its teachings. The individuals in the parable committed acts of intolerance. The parable reminds us that sometimes our leaders are capable of acts of insensitivity.
The second problem is with the imposed title. Nowhere in the text does it say “good Samaritan”. The Christian culture has imposed this on this text. We use this adjective of good to take something that normally implied as “bad” and lift it up. In the text, he is just a regular person, simply a Samaritan. The passage reminds us that anyone is capable of generous, great, and noble acts of compassion. In ancient times, Jews and Samarians hated each other. To hear that a Samaritan was the hero of Jesus’ parable was difficult for the Jewish audience. It was hard to identify with the three individuals of the story. Few were born into the elite religious circles of the priest or the Levite. It was unfathomable to think of themselves like the Samaritan.
To relate this story to our lives today, the participants would be a Catholic bishop, the head of a mega-church, and someone we hate (fill in your own personal person). This year’s election has sharply divided our country. The enemy is the hero of the story. Now, who are we to identify with? The answer is the victim. Pilgrim Church is like the inn, a place of healing. Like a good neighbor, Pilgrim is here. Go and do like-wise.