“Who is my neighbour?”

Luke 10:29

Thursday, 4 February 2021

Luke 10:25-37

It’s one thing to say we must love our neighbour, but quite another to do it. Human beings are very good at delineating boundaries of inclusion and exclusion. In South Africa, apartheid taught us to be aware of the visual cues of race and tribe so that we knew who our neighbour was. In their eyes, it was obvious that our neighbour is someone who looks like us, believes like us and acts like us. Some magistrates used the pencil test to help determine if an individual was white or coloured. If a pencil inserted into the hair slid out, the straightness of the hair indicated whiteness.

While we thank God that such days are behind us, we should not be too satisfied with our own righteousness. We listen for accents and quickly pick out the Nigerian, or the francophone. The darker skins of Africans from the equatorial regions are easily and quickly discerned. Laws against discrimination may have changed, but our human hearts have not. Recent attacks on migrants in Durban are proof of that.

Jesus told the parable of the Good Samaritan to show people that what really matters are our actions, not our religious beliefs, not the tribe we belong to, not our race. The outcast, heretic Samaritan, the man who was ritually impure, showed greater love than the priests and lawmakers of the Jewish establishment in the time of Jesus. He was the true neighbour, based on his actions.

When our values are rooted in the life and teaching of Jesus, the world becomes our neighbourhood, the one different to us our neighbour. Then peace and justice will reign.

Lord God,

Help us to see you in broken and the outcast. Even more, help us to see ourselves in them, so that we may love them as you do.


Fr Bruce Botha SJ

Fr Bruce Botha SJ was born in Durban, KZN. He received a diploma in education from the University of Natal and then taught physical science for 4 years at Scottburgh High School. He joined the Society of Jesus and did his noviciate in Cape Town. He then studied philosophy in London and theology in Berkeley, California. Between philosophy and theology, in the period of formation known as regency, he worked as the director of counselling for an HIV research centre. After ordination in 2006 he worked in Holy Trinity, Braamfontein and is currently the parish priest of St Martin de Porres, Orlando West and Episcopal Vicar for Evangelisation for the Archdiocese of Johannesburg.

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