The parable of the Good Samaritan is so familiar to us that it may no longer surprise us as parables are meant to do. Two modern-day stories may give us an idea of the shock of inconvenient faith Jesus conveyed to the lawyer who asked “who is my neighbor?”
Henri Nouwen tells the story of a conversation he had with an older experienced professor at the University of Notre Dame, who remarked: “You know…my whole life I have been complaining that my work was constantly interrupted – until I discovered that my interruptions were my work.”
On June 1, 1998, the Los Angeles Times ran a story about a 50-year-old man who suffered a heart attack while taking the grueling state bar exam. Two other students immediately stopped to help the man by administering CPR until the paramedics arrived, then they resumed taking their exam. Citing policy, the test supervisor refused to allow the two students additional time to make up for the 40 minutes they spent helping the victim. The state bar’s senior executive for admissions backed the decision stating, “If these two want to be lawyers, they should learn a lesson about priorities.”
Just so. Our work of compassion requires us to interrupt what we are doing at the time and pay attention to what is really important. In today’s gospel, Jesus taught the lawyer a lesson about priories. Interrupt your state bar exam, he told him, and be neighbor to the man suffering a heart attack.
What Jesus said to the lawyer, he says to us: “Go and do likewise.”
Deacon Manuel Valencia is on the staff at Mater Dolorosa Passionist Retreat Center, Sierra Madre, California.