It may be one of the best known and best loved Gospel readings ever; the story of the Good Samaritan. In God's own time and in God's own way He has it just so that this is the Gospel we read this weekend; the end of a very sad and tragic week and hopefully the beginning, as we look forward, of new hope. Of course everyone here can agree with me that as a people, and as a nation, we have a long way to go.
The question this Gospel speaks to me over and over again is who is my neighbor? Several years ago I was doing plenty of reading and research on the words of Mother Teresa as I prepared to be a presenter at a very important retreat. I do not recall if the following are her words or words she had previously read and shared; at that time and today, that is not important. What I believe to be important on this particular Good Samaritan Sunday is that we hear them right now. And more importantly, I pray that after hearing them we can pray about these words and make sure our hearts are right and that we can gently and peaceably help others to see just who is my neighbor.
We start with these words shared to me one evening as I read from Mother Teresa's journal:
Jesus is the Hungry - to be fed.
Jesus is the Thirsty - to be satiated.
Jesus is the Naked - to be clothed.
Jesus is the Homeless - to be taken in.
Jesus is the Sick - to be healed.
Jesus is the Lonely - to be loved.
Jesus is the Unwanted - to be wanted.
Jesus is the Leper - to wash his wounds.
Jesus is the Beggar - to give him a smile.
Jesus is the Drunkard - to listen to him.
Jesus is the Mental - to protect him.
Jesus is the Little One - to embrace him.
Jesus is the Blind - to lead him.
Jesus is the Dumb - to speak for him.
Jesus is the Crippled - to walk with him.
Jesus is the Drug Addict - to befriend him.
Jesus is the Prostitute - to remove from danger and befriend her.
Jesus is the Prisoner - to be visited.
Jesus is the Old - to be served.
So when we see Jesus in the hungry and the thirsty and the naked and so on, we see Jesus in our neighbor.
Today this list needs to be expanded because Jesus is the police officer serving on the streets everyday to keep you and me safe. Jesus is also the protestor, those who seek justice from a perspective maybe the rest of us, or even just some of us, cannot possible understand. Jesus is the service man and woman who defends our country from our enemies, foreign and domestic. And strangely, Jesus may be the enemy who often times does not know why they even fight us or why they hate us. Jesus is the man or woman in our communities and neighborhoods that supports the same candidate you support and the candidate you do not support. Jesus is the angry, the frustrated, the scared and those who have lost hope. Why is Jesus these folks, so he can convert them, and heal them and lead them to a true metanoia; a change of heart that turns us away from despair and distress and leads us home, in love, all the way to the Father. Jesus is the ONE who loves us all, with a love that takes us all the way to Heaven.
In the week ahead, we need to try very hard to see Jesus in everyone, to listen twice as much as we speak, to measure twice and then carefully cut once, and to pray and fast. Praying seems easy but I am talking about a prayer of forgiveness and repentance; asking God to shower us, and our nation, and our neighbor, with his abundant mercy. Fasting is something that has generally fallen in disuse among our Catholic faith and Catholic traditions but this week, as we contemplate our neighbor, as we contemplate Jesus in everyone, we need to dedicate and devote ourselves to at least one day of fasting. Using the guidelines we use during Lent, select a day this week that we will fast for our nation and neighbor, one full meal only, no snacks no extras no delights. And offer this to God in reparation for the sins of our nation, our neighbor and ourselves. Remember the admonition when fasting, do not look glum or gloomy, but offer this to God the Father through the merits of his son, our savior and our neighbor, Jesus Christ.
Dear brothers and sisters, dear neighbor, how can we say that we love God if we do not love all those made in God's very image and likeness?
God come to our aid, make haste to help us, show us the way to love my neighbor.