The Good Samaritans of Our Times

Fr Paolo Consonni, MCCJ

In the last few days, the news sadly reported the killing of four priests and one nun: two Jesuits in Mexico and two diocesan priests in Nigeria, all of them serving their people in areas where violence is endemic.  The nun was killed in Haiti, after more than 20 years of caring for street children in one of the capital’s poorest neighborhoods. 

Looking at these heroic examples of Christian life and of unconditional love, I feel inadequate. I am afraid even to think that one day I might be in a similar situation. Martyrdom is ultimately a special grace that the Lord reserves for those whom He chooses, and I do not expect to be in that number, seeing my little faith. I am sure many of you feel the same.

The problem to thinking this way is that the commandment to “love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself”, as this Sunday’s Gospel reminds us (Lk 10:25-37), would be reserved only for exceptional people, able to make extraordinary choices.

The parable of the Good Samaritan, which is at the heart of Jesus’ explanation about “what to do to inherit eternal life”, indicates instead that the ultimate answer on how to fulfill one’s vocation as a human being and as a believer lies in the ordinary choices one makes in the normal settings of daily life. The journey from Jerusalem to Jericho that three travelers (the priest, the Levite, and the Samaritan) made that day can be compared to our daily commute to go to work, to school, or to church. We set out every day, each one with our own plans, concerns, worries… but unexpected events often happen: that day, on the road to Jericho, a man was robbed and beaten. Those “accidents” accurately reveal the value-system within our hearts.

For the priest and the Levite, to stop would have been an unwelcome disruption of their plans and schedule. To touch a bleeding man would even make them ritually impure, not a comfortable feeling for people who have religious duties. I understand them very well, because when I am in a hurry and anxious about something, I too tend to avoid unwanted, time-consuming complications.

In our spiritual life, such “disruptions” can however be considered as God’s invitations to see life from a different perspective, to re-evaluate our priorities, to better use our resources, and, above all, to live our lives to the fullest. Jesus indicates the choice of the Samaritan to interrupt his journey and pay heed to God’s summons coming from the half-dead body lying on the road as the true measure of a good spirituality which goes beyond formal religious affiliation. That Samaritan not only provided emergency aid to the unfortunate man (he dressed his wounds and took him to an inn) but also made sure that he would fully recover, telling the innkeeper: “’Take care of him. If you spend more than what I have given you, I shall repay you on my return.” The Good Samaritan is the image of Christ Himself, who freely offered His whole life for our salvation.

During this latest spell of Covid-19, we have experienced the good organization of both government agencies and private institutions, which have efficiently mobilized all available resources for the good of the population. I was touched to see that many of the staff, at any level, selflessly did their best to give a human touch to the grueling task of controlling the pandemic, making an “extra” effort to treat everyone with kindness. I was also glad to see many people, among whom were some friends, serving as volunteers in the hot weather, not because it was their job, but out of their generosity.

The lesson of the story of the Good Samaritan is that “goodness” should not be totally delegated to institutions or to a job description; it involves a personal and voluntary commitment, and very often it has to do with the little “extra” that can come only from a free choice.

Benedict XVI well explained that “Love—caritas—will always prove necessary, even in the most just society. There is no ordering of the State so just that it can eliminate the need for a service of love. Whoever wants to eliminate love is preparing to eliminate man as such. There will always be suffering which cries out for consolation and help. There will always be loneliness. There will always be situations of material need where help in the form of concrete love of neighbour is indispensable.” (Deus Caritas Est 28). 

Jesus concluded the parable with the invitation: “Go and do likewise.” During these challenging times, we will surely have occasions to imitate these “Good Samaritans” of our times, like the staff, the workers and the volunteers, who in a low-profile mode and in a gratuitous way, are interrupting the routine of their lives and making an “extra” effort so that our society might find healing and find its way into an uncertain future.

(Image: Amazos7 at