Chapter 2: A Stranger on the Road
Without fear of being mistaken, one is liable to think that since time immemorial, human relations have not always at their best. The Bible abounds with examples of this, starting with Cain and Abel, from Job to Jesus and from Jesus to our time. History repeats itself, says Pope Francis who reminds us in the first chapter of this encyclical letter of so many of today’s tribulations.
However, he does speak of ways that give hope as he searches “for a ray of light in the midst of what we are experiencing, and before proposing a few lines of action”. (#56) In chapter 2, “A stranger on the road”, he proposes the parable of the good Samaritan as this ray of light.
To develop a good understanding of the text, let’s take time to read this parable in the gospel according to Luke (10:25-35). We can even use it for Lectio Divina.
The Pope starts by reminding us that “the joys and hopes, the grief and anguish of the people of our time, especially of those who are poor or afflicted, are the joys and hopes, the grief and anguish of the followers of Christ as well” (#56). This parable therefore concerns me as a believer.
With which character do I identify?
The wounded man: “a man…. fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead.”
Does it ever happen to me to feel like the wounded person? On these occasions, from whom do I expect help? How confident am I that the Lord will come to my rescue through a “close neighbour”? (#80)
The priest and the Levite: “A priest was going down that raod; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.” The Levite did the same. The same still happens in our time: “Someone is assaulted on our streets, and many hurry off as if they did not notice.” (#65)
Do I sometimes simply carry on as if nothing has happened, like the priest and the Levite? Do I sometimes act as if I didn’t see anything? Do I take the time to stop?
The Samaritan (a stranger): “He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him.”
How can I be a “presence” to a wounded person? Do I first entrust this person to God? Do I entrust myself, knowing that I shall never be up to the task?
“In earlier Jewish traditions, the imperative to love and care for others appears to have been limited to relationships between members of the same nation.” (#59). However, the Pope reminds us that in the community of Saint John, “fellow Christians were to be welcomed, ‘even though they are strangers to you’ (3 Jn 5).” (#62)
How do I understand the expression ‘neighbour’? Are my prayers and my care-giving limited to the members of my family, of my peer group or of my nationality? How do I understand the prayers of the faithful at Mass, which are also called ‘universal prayers’? Can I be present to others in the name of the presence of God who never abandons us?
My Lord Jesus, you tell me: Do this, and you shall live! Teach me to do the same, according to each situation, to my capacities; show me who is my neighbour; call me to open my eyes on the suffering that distresses our mankind. Our Holy Father reminds us: “In the face of so much pain and suffering, our only course is to imitate the Good Samaritan.” (#67)
This encyclical letter truly is a wonderful gift!
Text: Nicole Fortier-Courcy, (Gatineau group)
Translation: Marie-Thérèse Roy