(Please keep the Passionist Congregation in your thoughts and prayers over these days and throughout this month of October. We began our General Chapter in Rome two days ago and are working now to plan and prepare for the years ahead. Thank you, Denis Travers, CP)
But to focus on today our liturgical readings take us to one of the most loved stories that Jesus told – that of the Good Samaritan.
We are all too familiar with the story and its main characters. The Traveller who foolishly attempts to journey unaccompanied on one of the most notorious and dangerous roads of the time. The Robbers who act with violence to deprive the naive traveller of his goods and who nearly take his life as well. The Priest and then the Levite who adhere to rituals whilst overlooking the great commandment to love their neighbour.
But I want to speak about another character – one who offers us the chance to meditate on our own loving. Especially when our love for another is often unseen and hidden and yet is vital to that person’s well-being.
I am not referring here to the Samaritan, but to the Inn Keeper – the one who imitates and continues the compassion of the Samaritan! He is an unobtrusive character in the story, yet one whose actions are essential to the working of the parable.
The Inn Keeper’s role is almost unnoticed in the story. He does not rescue the traveller, but he is the one charged with the day to day care of the injured man. His role is not so widely acclaimed, but it is essential to the Samaritan’s strategy – for without the Inn Keeper there is no ongoing care for the wounded man, there is no one to trust with the money left behind (and no one to extend credit). Without his care there is no continued treatment of the wounds, no daily nourishing provision of conversation and food, no company for the wounded traveller and no point of reference for the Samaritan upon his return visit to the area.
The love shown by a parent, partner or friend is so often the same. So many times in life our call to love another is not seen in dramatic deeds, but rather goes on quietly in the background gently accumulating years of faithful and caring service to those we love.
Indeed much of our most compassionate work will be unseen (sometimes even by the recipient and certainly by the wider public). Yet this approach to people we love – and especially to those who need our assistance – is one of the most deeply valued aspects of Christian life and service. We are called to be generous with others as God is generous with us.
This is often loving from the level of the ‘heart’ – wherein resides that inner life and goodness given by God and which was explicitly identified in our baptism. Our capacity to love as God has first loved us is reactivated every time the call of Jesus is whispered in the depths of our hearts. In response to this call we manifest our true nature as one created in the image and likeness of God by our determination to respond in a kindly, sympathetic manner to those who are ‘wounded’ by life. We are called on often in life to release, and act from, our capacity to be a neighbour to those who are in need.
Let’s pray that throughout our Christian life we allow our own inner goodness to be manifested in our gentle sympathy and love for others.
Indeed this parable teaches us that sometimes the worst times can become beautiful memories – and thus through the risk-taking of the Samaritan and the ongoing generosity of the Innkeeper, the wounded traveller’s life goes from a moment of horror to an experience of deep compassion and loving care.
Of course and ideally, we are both the Samaritan and Innkeeper – since in this parable both can model for us what ‘loving our neighbour’ (or loving as a neighbour) can look like.
Fr. Denis Travers, C.P., is a member of Holy Spirit Province, Australia. He currently serves on the General Council and is stationed in Rome.