One of the most quoted lines from Sean O Casey’s play, Juno and the Paycock is the declaration that, ‘the world is in a state of chassis.’ At this time, in the history of the world, it would be hard not to agree! Pandemic, wars, economic crisis, mistrust, all seem to give credence to this pronouncement! Into the mix, I think, we also have to add an increasingly unhealthy preoccupation with our own story, our rights and our needs, leading to the exclusion of those who don’t fit into our worldview, our ‘social grouping’, those we view as ‘the other’ or ‘outsiders’, those we want to control and keep at a distance, those we choose to ‘love’ or not to ‘love’.
What is the answer?
For Christians the question is not ‘What’ is the answer but ‘Who’ is the answer? And the answer of course is Jesus! Henri Nouwen, in encouraging us to walk the path of peace, to love our sisters and brothers, our ‘neighbours’ writes, “For Jesus, there are no countries to be conquered, no ideologies to be imposed, no people to be dominated. There are only children, women and men to be loved.”
It is the challenge or, to look at it another way, the opportunity presented to us in the gospel we will hear this coming Sunday of The Good Samaritan. The Good Samaritan didn’t stop to consider who the person lying on the side of the road was before he helped him. He wasn’t concerned about what others would say when he chose to kneel down beside him and to tenderly dress his wounds and touch his battered and bruised body. He did not keep his distance. He laid down no conditions to the ongoing care he offered and generously provided for this ‘stranger’. He was moved by compassion, not a desire to control. He did not look the other way because he was too preoccupied by social norms and the need to maintain his public persona in the eyes of others. He did not make a ‘song and dance’ and publicise his ‘act of unconditional love’. The Good Samaritan simply did what Jesus calls each of us to do – he looked with love at a person in need, whose vulnerability called forth from deep within the Good Samaritan his own vulnerability and the knowledge that he himself was loved unconditionally by God and if he was loved unconditionally by God then so too his sisters and brothers. As Nouwen says,
“it’s an incredible mystery of God’s love that the more you know how deeply you are loved, the more you will see how deeply your sisters and brothers in the human family are loved.”
Recently Pope Francis tweeted, “The Christian faith is fundamentally an encounter with Jesus Christ. If we truly believe in Jesus, we must try to act like Jesus did: encounter others, encounter our neighbours, so as to share the saving truth of the Gospel with them.”
Perhaps this week, we could all spend some time with the story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37), encounter Jesus in prayer and see how each of us is called to be a ‘Good Samaritan’ to those we encounter each day. We may not be able to sort out all the ‘chassis’ afoot in the world at this time, but each of us can, in our own way, share the Good News of Jesus Christ, that God is love, by reaching out to those in need, those in crisis, those suffering, those who feel unloved and unwanted. It isn’t always easy, but if we believe and practice in our lives, that every ‘act’ we carry out for and towards another, is an ‘act of love’, then we too will reveal to the world that, “there are no countries to be conquered, no ideologies to be imposed, no people to be dominated. There are only children, women and men to be loved.”
Thérèse Ferry is the Diocesan Advisor for Primary Schools, Diocese of Derry