The Good Samaritan is a parable which Jesuit Father Joe Fitzmyer, S.J. notes, “. . . supplies a practical model for Christian conduct, and includes radical demands that require the approval or rejection of certain modes of action.” However, the parable of the Good Samaritan is more than that. It is an image. It is an image which, along with the Prodigal Son, is part of the English language, even among those who profess no faith, even among those who are militantly atheistic. A generic definition for Good Samaritan is, “A compassionate person who unselfishly helps another.” The Good Samaritan is much more than just a nice guy.
The bumper sticker that advises one to “commit random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty” annoys me beyond tolerance. It annoys me almost as much as baby on board stickers on cars to which I want to scream, "Then drive carefully." Perhaps my annoyance springs from the words random and senseless. The Samaritan did not commit a random act of kindness. That would have been too easy. The critical component in this parable is that the Samaritan made a commitment to another.
“Look after him, and if there is any further expense I will repay you on my way back,” It was the act of making a commitment, the creation of a future relationship, that took this act from the category of random good deed or senseless act of beauty into something more important.
Suppose the two pieces of silver didn't cover all of the expenses and the Samaritan didn’t return because he forgot? Or he didn’t feel like stopping? Or was too busy and took a shorter route back? Or, the dreaded, SOMETHING came up? The victim would have been stuck with the bill. Since he was robbed of everything, he might have been put in prison as a debtor.
What does it cost someone else when I break a commitment? What is the impact on another when I renege on a promise? What does it cost us when we break a commitment or renege on a promise?
Like many of the parables the parable of the Good Samaritan is ultimately frustrating. The story ends too soon. It is like seeing only the first act of a two-act play. We don’t know if the Samaritan kept his word. The Samaritan forced the innkeeper into a commitment he may not have wanted. Did he care for the man or did he pocket the silver?
Perhaps it's better to have only part of the story. The incompleteness allows us to insert ourselves into the parable and explore it's meaning without a preordained conclusion, or a comfortable: And they lived happily ever after. We don’t know if the Samaritan kept his word. We don’t know if the innkeeper kept up his part of the bargain. However, we know that Jesus keeps His word to us. We know that Jesus’ commitment has never wavered. We need only go to Him in prayer and we will be cared for. No silver necessary.
It has been a while since I've posted. Busy is part of the answer. I've been on the road a bit with a trip to Germantown, NY coming up to give some lectures. I concelebrated the wedding Mass of a former college roommate. Both were widowed a few years ago. It was one of the most enjoyable weddings I've ever attended. Long drive back and forth but in the end it was worth every leg cramp.
Attached are some fall photos. So far things are looking good. There are some dramatic oranges and scarlets appearing in spotty fashion. We are about a week away from the usual peak. These are from last year as I've not been out. I will take the camera to Germantown, a town just off the Taconic Parkway overlooking the Hudson. See what I can get during the off hours.
The read leaves clinging to the slightly pink plaster outside wall caught my attention. It screams "FALL." Bit of trivia. If an American says fall in Australia the Australian has no idea what he is talking about. Autumn? Yes. Fall? Excuse me? Eucalypts don't drop their leaves.
Squirrel grabbing a quick snack.
St. Joseph Abbey at sunrise. As I'd already been in the chapel for vigils at 3:30 AM there was no real effort being up for sunrise.
The abbey infirmary at sunrise.
+Fr. Jack, SJ, MD