"Go and do likewise..."
Loving the neighbor
It is about a traveler who is stripped of clothing, beaten, and left half dead alongside the road. First a priest and then a Levite comes by, but both avoided the man. Finally, a Samaritan happens to come upon the traveler and attended to him with care.
When He descended into the underworld: “I am your God, who for you and for all those to be born from you, have made myself your son. And now I say to you that I have the power to declare to those who are enchained, ‘Come forth,’ and to those who are in darkness, ‘Be enlightened,’ and to those who sleep, ‘Arise’. With Jesus, his anointed ones - “Christians” - are likewise called to bring salvation, to be good Samaritans. Like their Master, they too must bind up people’s wounds and pour on oil and wine.
They must be good innkeepers until the Samaritan returns. “This inn, if you reflect on it, is the Church. Now it is an inn because our life is a journey; it will be our home that we shall never abandon, once we have arrived safely in the kingdom of heaven. Meanwhile, we gratefully accept the care that is given in the inn.
These are the horizons that our Lord wants to open up to the doctor of the Law and with him all Christians. He does not reproach him for his limited understanding. He leads him first to reflect, and then to dream: Go and do likewise. As often with the Gospels, it is wise not to pass over the abrupt ending of the story too quickly. The answer to Jesus’ question about who was the wounded man’s neighbor is certainly clear: the one who showed mercy on him. What is not so clear is why Jesus asked that question, which turned around the question asked by the doctor of the Law. “Jesus shifts our understanding: it is not just about seeing the other as someone like myself, but of the ability to make myself like the other.
Faced with a narrow attitude that limits our field for doing good, weighing up for example whether or not the other person belongs to our group or will later return the favor, our Lord responds by inviting us to broaden our perspective, to become a neighbor to the other person.
The word “neighbor” then changes from meaning the type of person who deserves my attention, to meaning a quality of the heart. For the Christian, every human being is a ‘neighbor’ to be loved. He should not ask himself whom he should love, because to ask ‘who is my neighbor’ is already to set limits and conditions . . . The right question is not ‘who is my neighbor?’ but ‘to whom should I become a neighbor?’ And the answer is: ‘anyone in need, even if a stranger to me, becomes a neighbor I must help’