The gospel text this Sunday is familiar, Luke’s Good Samaritan. It’s simple: a man suffers assault and lies beside the road. Good and religious people pass by, for many reasons. Then a man who no one would guess has it in him stops and cares deeply for the fallen man, binding his wounds, finding him a place to rest and heal, showing him mercy.
So many people are lying by the road in our communities right now. So many neighbors’ bodies surround us. Some we pass by. I don’t always stop to help; sometimes I’m afraid, unsure of what’s helpful, busy or even disgusted. Some we commit to caring for; sometimes I do stop, hoping my humanity will dignify the personhood of my neighbor. Sometimes, we are the one awaiting a Good Samaritan to notice our pain; sometimes, I’m so hurt by the world that it doesn’t matter who helps me find my healing, as long as someone (anyone!) comes near and treats me with mercy.
I was shopping with my spouse at the PSU farmer’s market last weekend, and a man, clearly houseless, stood with a sign that said, ‘I’m sorry I’m always in the way. I know I’m not easy to look at. I could use some help.’ I said to my husband, ‘No one should feel like they can’t be on the same sidewalks I use every day.’ And—as often happens—later I realized that my feeling of compassion was not the same thing as acting out my compassion. I wish I’d spoken with him, told him I saw him as a neighbor, that he wasn’t in the way at all, offered him assistance. I didn’t, in the end, show him meaningful mercy.
In verse 10:37, the lawyer Jesus was speaking with answered the question, ‘Who was a neighbor to the man?’ with ‘The one who showed him mercy.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Go and do likewise.’
Beloved, whether you are the person needing mercy or the one called to give it, I hope that this week you’ll be blessed by the Spirit’s leading to actually show it. I pray that you—and I—will move beyond ‘thoughts and prayers’ to action. Mercy withheld is no mercy at all. Let us go and do likewise,