St Paul’s Sunday Missal asks us today, “to whom can I be a neighbour?” The priest and the Levite cross the street when they come upon the robbed and beaten man. Why? What did they see? Were they scared that the brigands would return? Were they afraid of becoming unclean by touching the man’s blood, or worse, an already-dead body? Did they suppose the man had sinned? Did they piously believe he deserved this treatment?
Why then, did the Samaritan choose to stop, unimpeded by these same concerns? He ignored the threat of the brigands returning. He risked becoming unclean. He chose not to judge.
In doing so, he recognised the Word.
Moses taught in our first reading that the Word is not beyond our strength nor our reach. We do not need to go to heaven or cross the seas to hear it. It is with us in plain sight if we but only look.
Who is that forsaken man in our world today? The man asleep on the cardboard in the street with an empty bottle still clutched in his hand? The woman scrounging through the bins for extra food? The Islamic family risking their lives on an unseaworthy boat, the drug addict taking up a hospital bed, the demented woman wailing to be heard, the unrepentant prisoner scowling in his cell?
Or is he the parishioner, beaten by their spouse, divorced and remarried, unmarried and pregnant, gay, lesbian, or gender fluid, too anxious to look up or reach out for fear of rejection and stigma by their own community? How often do we ‘pass by on the other side’ because it is just too hard?
The Samaritan chose not to pass by. He didn’t need to look to the heavens or cross the seas, for he recognised the Word in the beaten and bloodied man before him. He bent down, bandaged, risked purity and his own reputation. He carried and comforted, cared and paid for the wounded, the tormented, the other. He loved with all his heart, all his soul and all his mind. The Word was not beyond his strength nor his reach, just as it is not beyond ours today.
May we observe the Word near to us, in the suffering, ignored and abandoned of our world, and speak it with our mouths and hearts, truly loving our neighbour as we are called to do.
Angela Claire works as a chaplain in a Tasmanian local primary school and with the Passionists at St Joseph’s Hobart Parish. She completed a Master of Theology in 2021 and is currently studying Biblical Hebrew with the Israel Institute. She enjoys rock climbing and long leisurely beach walks with her husband and four-legged daughter.