Friday, March 18, 2011

The Good Samaritan Reflection

Recently, I have been rereading Pope John Paul II's encyclical on the Meaning of Human Suffering.  As I read the following passage, I thought about the many people we have met who have adopted older children with Down syndrome from Eastern European orphanages and other poor institutions. These children with Ds did not stand a chance and had already suffered greatly from a lack of care. These brave and loving families stopped by the side of the road, spared all they have, and take action with all their life to give these children  meaningful lives.  So many of these families adopt more than one child from these institutions and give up so much financial security and take on the unknown medically and otherwise with these children. This passage it a tribute to these Good Samaritan's who do not pass by or throw a rug over the suffering of others, but are like Simon of Cyrene and willingly take up the cross of Christ and walk their entire life with the Love of Jesus, no matter the price.  (I think this applies to families who raise their own children with disabilities and to foster parents etc, but for some reason the international Ds adoption situation really came to mind)  As we celebrate St Joseph Day tomorrow, let us ponder the care of our neighbor that Christians are all called to fulfill.

"The parable of the Good Samaritan belongs to the Gospel of suffering. For it indicates what the relationship of each of us must be towards our suffering neighbour. We are not allowed to "pass by on the other side" indifferently; we must "stop" beside him. Everyone who stops beside the suffering of another person, whatever form it may take, is a Good Samaritan. This stopping does not mean curiosity but availability. It is like the opening of a certain interior disposition of the heart, which also has an emotional expression of its own. The name "Good Samaritan" fits every individual who is sensitive to the sufferings of others, who "is moved" by the misfortune of another. If Christ, who knows the interior of man, emphasizes this compassion, this means that it is important for our whole attitude to others' suffering. Therefore one must cultivate this sensitivity of heart, which bears witness to compassion towards a suffering person. Some times this compassion remains the only or principal expression of our love for and solidarity with the sufferer.
Nevertheless, the Good Samaritan of Christ's parable does not stop at sympathy and compassion alone. They become for him an incentive to actions aimed at bringing help to the injured man. In a word, then, a Good Samaritan is one who brings help in suffering, whatever its nature may be. Help which is, as far as possible, effective. He puts his whole heart into it, nor does he spare material means. We can say that he gives himself, his very "I", opening this "I" to the other person. Here we touch upon one of the key-points of all Christian anthropology. Man cannot "fully find himself except through a sincere gift of himself"(92). A Good Samaritan is the person capable of exactly such a gift of self.
29. Following the parable of the Gospel, we could say that suffering, which is present under so many different forms in our human world, is also present in order to unleash love in the human person, that unselfish gift of one's "I" on behalf of other people, especially those who suffer. The world of human suffering unceasingly calls for, so to speak, another world: the world of human love; and in a certain sense man owes to suffering that unselfish love which stirs in his heart and actions. The person who is a " neighbour" cannot indifferently pass by the suffering of another: this in the name of fundamental human solidarity, still more in the name of love of neighbour. He must "stop", "sympathize", just like the Samaritan of the Gospel parable. The parable in itself expresses a deeply Christian truth, but one that at the same time is very universally human. It is not without reason that, also in ordinary speech, any activity on behalf of the suffering and needy is called "Good Samaritan" work."

No comments: