"A man was traveling on a business trip from Jerusalem
to Jericho when he came upon someone who had fallen among robbers."
might have been the opening to Jesus— parable of the Good Samaritan.
the hero was a Samaritan, perhaps the most hated ethnic group in Israel at the
time. And yes, he was a layperson—not a priest or a Levite like the other two
travelers on the road. Both of these facts about the main character are important
elements of the story, because Jesus was clearly trying to get his listeners
to think outside the box.
this parable was Jesus— response to the question, "Who is my neighbor?" When
the master told a story about a member of a despised minority who was more kind
and generous than the Jewish priestly class, he was obviously intending to provoke
a reaction in his audience.
it is also possible that Jesus was using a person in the midst of his daily
work to demonstrate what it means to love our neighbor. It doesn—t involve a
big stretch to imagine the hero as a businessman. He is traveling on a rough
stretch of road, by himself (not with friends or family). He—s got a donkey,
and he just happens to be carrying olive oil and wine. He—s also got enough
money to pay an innkeeper to take care of the man, and he promises that he will
be coming back soon. This certainly sounds like a person on the first leg of
a business trip. Perhaps he was actually a dealer in olive oil or wine. Maybe
he was a buyer for a clothing chain. Or, he could have been a book publisher
like me or a director of human resources for a big corporation like my brother.
any case, the Good Samaritan was most likely "at work" when he did his "Good
Samaritan-ing." That is, he was probably on his job when he was called upon
to help someone less fortunate than he was.
and the workplace in our culture are given a pretty bum rap. (If you don—t believe
me, just read the "Dilbert" comic strip for a few days.) The workplace is most
often portrayed as an awful setting where people constantly put others down,
where the competitive spirit is exclusively and excessively rewarded, where
dog eats dog and only the strong survive. Many assume there is very little time
or tolerance in the midst of work for things like compassion or generosity or
going out of your way for others as the Samaritan did.
many ways, work deserves some of the criticism it receives. We often lose our
focus on what is truly important in life as we strive to make our jobs or careers
successful. We get so preoccupied with the bottom line, the next promotion,
getting a leg up that we forget that people are more important than profits,
prestige or power. We forget that we are but stewards of the resources we have
Good Samaritan recognized all that, however, and he did so in the midst of going
about his business. He was on the road that morning precisely because he was
working at the time, but he kept his perspective even in the midst of the hustle
and bustle of his daily work. He ran into somebody who needed assistance. He
stopped. He helped to the extent he could, given his time and resources. He
then went about his business, returning later to see how things were going.
is precisely that kind of openness that Jesus is asking of each of us. When
asked to identify what he meant by a neighbor, Jesus described a regular guy
going about his daily work, who somehow had time to love someone who needed
did Jesus say about this man? "Go and do the same," he told all of us, no matter
what our occupation or profession might be. That good businessman—in the midst
of doing his own job and using resources from his own workplace—was Jesus— example
of what "love thy neighbor" looks like.
Talk about a time when someone has been a Good Samaritan for you.
What keeps you from being a Good Samaritan at home, work or school? What will it take to get beyond any obstacles?
this month's Questions for Reflection
from God in Our Midst.
Loving Our Enemies
By Judith Dunlap
January 16, 1991, the day the Persian Gulf War began, was the first
Wednesday night meeting of our parish—s winter religious education program.
The TV and radio began announcing the bombing a little after 6:30 p.m., just
as our children were heading out the door for class. I remember their coming
into the parish looking wide-eyed and scared, little ones holding onto their
parents— hands. We all went into the church proper, 150 youngsters and 20 or
so catechists, and began to pray.
used a globe to show the children how far away Iraq was. (We realized the littlest
ones were afraid the bombs were just a suburb away.) We prayed for our own men
and women who were fighting and we also prayed for the Iraqi people. Every time
winter session met (Wednesday nights and Saturday mornings) we began together
in church. We talked about the war, tried to become more familiar with the people
of Iraq and prayed together. And we prayed for an end to the war.
outbreak of war was a catechetical moment. It was an opportunity to teach our
children that the people we may see as the enemy have a face, a life and ideals
of their own. Even if we don—t like them or oppose their belief system or lifestyle,
we are called to love and pray for them and to work for peace. It—s a good lesson
for "enemies" far away in other lands as well as "sometimes enemies" closer
to home in the neighborhood or classroom.
bombing stopped on the night of February 27, the last Wednesday night of winter
session. When we assembled at our final gathering the following Saturday, our
youngsters took personal credit for ending the war. We didn—t tell them any
Love is a decision, not just a feeling. It's a bond that recognizes our connectedness. Discuss the difference between loving and liking someone.
this month's FAMILY CORNER.
At the beginning of The Pianist we see black-and-white documentary
footage of Warsaw city traffic in 1939, a director—s device for saying nonverbally,
"What you are about to watch really happened."
film then proceeds in rich color, introducing Wladyslaw Szpilman (Adrien Brody),
playing the piano at a Warsaw radio station. When explosions rock the radio
station and his life, this Jewish pianist cannot imagine how bad things will
get. Nor can we, the audience.
is a gradual descent into hell. At first Wladyslaw, his parents, brother and
two sisters are determined to preserve their dignity and their family, only
to see it systematically stripped away. They say they will refuse to wear an
armband with the Star of David, but they do.
family is forcibly resettled to a newly created Jewish ghetto, walled in from
the rest of the city, living six in two rooms in circumstances they could never
have contemplated. They observe humiliations and cruelty all about them but
are helpless to do anything about them.
has been written and filmed about the Holocaust, but this film forcefully gets
the audience to experience the uncertainty of what to expect next and the growing
dread of what lies ahead. When the ghetto—s residents are herded together and
marched to the train station, we know they are being shipped to their deaths.
They know only that it will not be good.
the last minute Wladyslaw is pulled from the march by a guard to be among the
last workers in the ghetto. With the help of a resistance fighter he eventually
escapes the ghetto and begins a long period on the run. At first he is helped
by Polish admirers of his piano playing and is shunted from one hiding place
to another. Eventually he is left to fend for himself, sick and starving. Szpilman
is not a hero, only an unwilling survivor.
the movie slowly becomes more and more monochromatic until, near its end, we
watch a ragged Szpilman hobble woefully away from us down the remains of a wide
avenue, a tiny figure in a vast landscape of gray, bombed, burned-out buildings.
Roman Polanski tells a visceral story about survival and the evil that humans
do to one another. Not every German in The Pianist is evil, and not every
Jew or Pole is good. In the end the piano player is caught in an abandoned building,
pathetically clutching a can of pickles, by a German officer. As the officer
listens to Szpilman play the piano we sense that he too seeks solace in beauty
from the ugliness of war.
The Pianist is not a pretty movie, but it is compelling and ultimately
uplifting—a testimony to hope. It is not for young children,
but for older teenagers and adults it provides important testimony.
AND HEROES AMONG US
By Judy Ball
Blessed Damien of Molokai (1840-1889)
"We lepers...." Father Damien always used those words
to begin the homilies he delivered to his congregation on
the Hawaiian island of Molokai. It was his way of assuring
his community of outcasts, who had been segregated on the
island after being diagnosed with leprosy (or Hansen—s disease),
that he was in solidarity with them.
But when he uttered those same words one day in 1885, he was saying something
more. The man who had been living and working among his people
for 12 years as priest, pastor, doctor, engineer, master builder,
legal advocate and even coffin-maker and grave-digger, had
become one of them. Father Damien had been diagnosed with
Hansen—s disease himself.
first, the news rocked the Belgian-born priest. He was especially worried about
what would might happen to the members of his beloved flock. Who would care
for them? Who would wrap them in love and assure them of God—s tender mercy?
Who would see to it that their physical and material needs were met? How would
the joyful community he had built continue?
was soon at peace when, in quick succession, a layman, another priest and three
Franciscan nuns came to the island to continue his work.
the next five years Father Damien, a member of the Congregation of the Sacred
Hearts of Jesus and Mary, continued to minister among his people even while
his body gave way to disease and disfigurement. His sufferings weren—t only
physical. He experienced bouts of loneliness and the absence of regular access
to the sacrament of Confession. He died during Holy Week.
Damien—s feast day is celebrated on May 10 in the United States.
Brother Philip Wilhelm, O.F.M.
It was 1970, but it may as well have been yesterday. That—s how clearly
Franciscan Brother Philip Wilhelm remembers the first patient he ever visited
at the Tala leprosarium 20 miles from Manila. She was a shy 16-year-old in the
invalid ward. Unable to coax any words from her, he carried on a one-way conversation
for a few moments and then prepared to leave.
are you coming back?" she asked softly. "Next week," Brother Phil assured her.
kept his word, and has. Since 1970, the 66-year-old Ohio-born missionary has
become a regular at Tala. "At first I wanted to bring a gift with me, but now
I know that being present, just being there is what—s important. —You just come
out and see us,— they tell me. They like to tell their stories!"
also teach Brother Phil, who first went to the Philippines in 1966. "They are
castaways," he told Every Day Catholic during a recent visit home to
the States, "but their faith is deep. They believe that God is taking care of
things have improved for them over the years. There—s a cure for persons newly
diagnosed with Hansen—s. As for those patients who were diagnosed long ago,
leprosy isn—t the dreaded disease that it once was, though they still struggle
with jobs, housing, education, loneliness.
his full-time ministry—he—s spiritual assistant to nine Third Order fraternities
in the Philippines—Brother Phil finds new ways to help his friends at Tala.
A secular Franciscan he knows, an optician, has offered 500 pairs of free eyeglasses.
such generosity amazing?" Brother Phil asks. Of course the same can be said