“Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead…”
Tuesday, 20 October 2020
So begins Jesus’ most subversive parable of them all, the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37), which undermines narrow understandings of both religious duty and our sense of nationality. Jesus’ priorities will become clear as the story unfolds. True faith is not affirming creeds or quoting sacred texts but doing God’s will – the service of one’s neighbour, the latter defined as any person in need.
The priest and the Levite pass by as the story continues. Jesus does not comment on their character or motivation. Those who first listened to it would know immediately that according to strict Judaic law, any encounter with the injured man would have made them ritually impure. They are, therefore ‘right’ in the sense of doing what their religious beliefs require. But are they really following what the ‘spirit’ of the law – love of God and neighbour – command?
All too often, we split ourselves into practices that we do, beliefs that we affirm, and our moral choices that we face in daily life. Do we ever find ourselves caught between beliefs and practices? In an emergency situation, how do we act?
Commenting on the text, Pope Francis observes:
Now there are only two kinds of people: those who care for someone who is hurting and those who pass by; those who bend down to help and those who look the other way and hurry off. Here, all our distinctions, labels and masks fall away: it is the moment of truth. [Fratelli Tutti, n.70].
South African readers of a certain generation may well find in that last phrase ‘moment of truth’ an echo of our own 1985 Kairos Document. It is a call to action, a call to prioritise what faith means to us and to ‘go and do likewise’.