"Your life is an occasion. Rise to it!" - Mr. Magorium

Friday, May 15, 2009

Who is My Neighbor?

When Jesus gave the second great commandment, "love your neighbor as yourself", someone asked him “Who is my neighbor?”

Jesus' answered by telling the parable of the good Samaritan. This story can be found in the Bible, in the book of Luke, Chapter 10 beginning with verse 30. The gist of it is this...

A man was robbed, beaten, and left in a muddy ditch. It is presumed that this man, like Jesus and the people he was telling this story to was a Jew. Devout Jews passing by saw this man in the ditch, but they went along on their way without doing anything to help him. But a Samaritan who came along saw him, had compassion on him, and helped him. The Samaritan took the robbery victim to an inn, bound up his wounds, and saw that he was fed. Before the Samaritan left the inn, he gave the innkeeper extra money to care for the man until he was better. Then the Samaritan told the innkeeper that if the money wasn't enough, he'd pay the balance when he passed that way again.

Now the Bible tells us elsewhere that the Jews and Samaritans had no dealings with each other. While I don't believe that there were open hostilities between the two peoples, they didn't get along. Yet it was a Samaritan, and not one of the devout Jews, who was neighbor enough to come to the aid of the man who'd been robbed and beaten. The point being, don't ask the question “Who is my neighbor.” in order to justify not doing good where it's needed. Everyone is your neighbor. So get over it and get on with the work.

Some years ago a friend of mine asked me if I'd like to drive down to Mexico with her and her husband to meet Mother Antonia. This wonderful lady isn't as well known as Mother Theresa in most of the world, but she certainly is in Northern Mexico. Mother Antonia grew up in Beverly Hills. She married and raised a family. After her children were grown and her husband had passed away she became a nun and went to Tijuana, Mexico to minister to inmates in the prison there. I was very impressed with the things my friend told me about this remarkable woman, so I took her up on the offer.

As a result, I wound up doing a couple of small desktop publishing projects for Mother Antonia. They were really not big jobs, but she was incredibly grateful for what I'd done. She knew I was a Christian Scientist, and she asked me why I loved her so much. I told her it was because of this story my friend (who is also not Catholic) had told me about her.

One day Mother Antonia went into the infirmary in the prison there in Tijuana. On the cold tile floor she found a man who had laid there for three days. He had been beaten when he had been apprehended for his crime. He was caked with dried mud and blood. People had been ignoring him since he was brought to the infirmary and laid there on that floor. Mother Antonia had knelt beside him, kissed him on the cheek, and told him that God loved him.

I concluded by saying to Mother Antonia, “Do I have that kind of courage? No.” Her face broke into a beaming smile. She kissed me once on each cheek and said, “Well, I'll do it for you.” While I was grateful for her sentiment, I knew in my heart that each of us must love our fellow man like that for ourselves. No one can do it for us.

This is an example of Christianity that transcends denomination. I believe that only this kind of Christianity is going to heal the world's ills.

There is a book about Mother Antonia. I haven't read it. But it's called The Prison Angel

1 comment:

  1. Unconditional love is like the sun, shining behind what ever clouds pass by or whatever storms assail the psyche. When you begin to understand anger as a voice it is possible to turn down the volume and hear love sing.