Knowing is Only Half the Battle
We are all familiar with the story of the Good Samaritan in today’s gospel. Yet, what do we do with the knowledge gleaned from this parable? Today’s homily gives the unfortunate results of several studies demonstrating that a lot of us are like the priest and Levite in the story…we ignore those in need. There are lots of reasons why this is and not all of them are because we are uncaring people. We’re often just in too big a hurry to stop and help. Perhaps more often, we tend to think that someone else will help.
There is an important principle of Catholic social teaching called “subsidiarity.” It says basically that problems and changes should be handled at the lowest level possible. If there are poor and needy people around us, it is not the job of the federal government, the state government, or anyone else to help them. The poor need to be helped at the lowest level possible and that lowest level is you and me. We cannot rely on some government program to help the poor. The fact that we may give money to a charity or pay our taxes that fund welfare doesn’t absolve us of our responsibility to help those in need that we encounter each day.
Ultimately, there is no law that will force us to take care of those around us. However, Jesus doesn’t appeal to the law in today’s gospel. He appeals to our hearts. No policeman will arrrest you for passing by a homeless person or not helping someone change a tire. Only the love of Christ can compel you to act with compassion. St. John of the Cross reminds us that “in the evening of life, we will be judged on our love.” We all know the story of the Good Samaritan, but that’s only half the battle. The real question is…”what will we do?”