The parable of the Good Samaritan is well known; a steady and reliable component in any form of catechesis or bible instruction. As set in the narrative of Luke, the scene is familiar enough. A lawyer seeking to ensnare Jesus with a question which demanded not only a deep knowledge of scripture but also wisdom as to its interpretation.
The response which Jesus provides would be as alien to his listeners as could possibly have been imagined. Surely, they would recognise the need to make good their own acts and omissions which had caused injustice. But, those caused by someone else? That was a different matter. Jesus' response was as novel as it was radical.
He tells of the Samaritan who, having physically lifted the victim and transported him to a place of refuge, pledges his unlimited credit to his care. On a human level, the Samaritan must - of course - have been credit-worthy; that is to say: someone of visible worth in order for others to rely upon his assurance that any after incurred liabilities would be met. After all, we are told that having taken these practical measures, he continued on his way.
This was no celebrity benefactor, patron, or 'notorious do-gooder' seeking a form of social recognition or civic honour. Rather, it was a man who recognised the Word of God and the Truth it represented. A truth directed to the dignity of every human person made in the image and likeness of God.
This parable -unambiguous and unyielding as it is- provides little by way of "wriggle room". The account also bears witness to the injustice which holds sway in any society where truth (and the demands it lays upon us) is obscured or eclipsed by self-interest, pride, presumption or arrogance.
Many will suggest that the parable of the Good Samaritan demonstrates the approach and response which the Church is obliged to foster with all mankind. Such a perspective lends weight to the notion that the Church should similarly be astute to avoid offence, to ensure inclusion and accommodation; irrespective of the realities with which it is confronted. This might be termed the ideology of accommodation. In contrast, others might suggest that this reasoning is itself irremediably defective. The defect might be thought to arise from an understanding which has as its sole focus of the actions of the Samaritan; giving no regard to what in fact motivated him to conduct himself in this manner in the first place. An alternative perspective might be concerned with the search for 'purpose'.
From this vantage point, one is able to scrutinise the Samaritan's actions and consider not only his deeds, but also what prompted them.
Two questions arise: Why was Jesus was able to place such store by the actions of the Samaritan and what is so important about his actions? The answer is the same in both cases: the revelation of Truth.
In the age in which we live, it might be thought that Truth is itself a casualty. Assaulted, violated, abandoned, it lies at the side of the road. So frequently has it been trodden underfoot that it has become -to the human eye- distorted and disfigured; such that many passers by no longer recognise it, or, the need to come to its rescue.
There are senior figures in the Church who - to continue the metaphor - know where Truth lies violated, but realising it has lost its attraction, prefer to offer a "truth" of their own. One which provides accommodation to all and challenge to none. One which instead of lighting the path of the traveller, causes them to veer off the path altogether.
In a climate such as this, we are - no doubt- all reluctant Samaritans. To publicly lift Truth from the gutter, to convey Truth to a place of refuge where it will be protected and cared for, calls into question our own credit and credibility. It carries risk and on that account alone. It requires wisdom and courage. Why?
Viewed through the secular lens, the Samaritan is not the bearer of Truth or the example of life in all its fullness and responsibility. Instead, he is the doer of good-deeds. Unless we heed his purpose, his actions are those of one who sees the victim as someone to be repaired rather than restored. It is, however, the purpose of the Samaritan to convey the Word of God in a manner which restores not only the victim, but the Samaritan also; enabling both to continue on their journey. The Samaritan's prayer might well have been: "Lord let me know your ways; teach me your statutes..."
Written in the law, indeed.
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