Who Are Our Neighbors?
Gospel Reflection for October 3, 2022
The story of the Good Samaritan is one of the most well-known parables in the Bible. It begins with a man wanting to know how to inherit eternal life. Jesus asks this man what the Law says about it, and the man replies, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27 NABRE) Jesus responds that this is correct, and that those who do this will live. The man, however, asks another question, “who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:29) Jesus responds by telling the story of the good Samaritan.
Whereas two other men passed by the victim of a brutal robbery on the other side of the road, a good Samaritan “approached the victim, poured oil and wine over his wounds and bandaged them. Then he lifted him up on his own animal, took him to an inn and cared for him.” (Luke 10:34) Jesus explained that this good Samaritan acted as a neighbor to the victim who was in need.
As Christians, our neighbors are not simply those who live next door. Our neighbors are not just our family and friends, or people that we’re familiar with. As Christians, everyone is our neighbor. Nationality, race, and religion, do not exclude certain people from being our neighbor! God calls us to love and care for everyone without exception! Strangers, outcasts, the elderly, the sick, the poor, and all who are overlooked by the world, must not be overlooked by us. They are our neighbors. Not everyone we come across will need physical care and attention, such as the victim in the parable. Sometimes our neighbors will simply need emotional support, or someone to talk to. So be on the lookout for those in need! And ask yourself—who have you been passing by?
This is a good article, and a reminder to extend christian charity--neighborliness--to all whom we encounter.
However, I would like to suggest an alternative reading. This was one of the first things I discussed in my own newsletter, as this is a passage I enjoy contemplating.
When Christ tells the story of the good Samaritan, he puts us in the position not of the Samaritan but of the jew in the ditch. This fits with the explanation given at the end, that our neighbor is “the one who shewed mercy”. Neighborliness is *not* universal by this reading, but it can be in practice the way you describe. In answer to the question “who is my neighbor” i would say “those who help us”. If we were to flip this and ask “who am I neighbor to” it would be “those whom i help”.
Both of these are smaller subsets than “be neighbor to everybody” and of we take time to really think about who helps us, and who we have helped, we can see the tangible boundaries of our community. Honest contemplation of this will probably yield some surprises.
But Christ takes this a step further by specifically using the Samaritan, whom first century Jews hated with a deeply rooted and not unjustified resentment. We CAN be neighbor to anybody, even though not everybody will be neighbor to us. If we want to build bridges of neighborliness, it involves reaching out to people in our lives, perhaps people who hate us (as the Jews hated Samaritans) and helping them.
Thank you as always for this reflection! God bless you!
This is so true, and in this day age when Christians are being persecuted and attacked even in the USA, we must show that we not only believe in loving our neighbor, we must actualy live it. Instead teaching and sharing our faith thru criticism and in negative ways, we should teach loving first and foremost God(God always comes first) and loving our neighbor. Share our faith by teaching and living love!