There are several things the parable of the Good Samaritan doesn’t tell us. It doesn’t tell us that the man in the ditch was a Jew. It doesn’t tell us why the priest and the Levite did not stop to help him. The emphasis in this parable is not on helping us determine whom we are to view as our neighbor and to whom we are to show love. Its focus is on the kind of people we are to be, active neighbors, as we live on the lookout for those in need of help. It is a specific scenario in which a teaching about active compassion, shared by the Hebrew Scriptures and the teachings of Jesus, becomes a deed. The sequence of seeing, having compassion, and acting is a common one in the gospels. In Luke’s gospel when Jesus “saw” the woman weeping at the death of her only son, he “had compassion for her” and brought her son to life (Lk 7:13). When the father “saw” the prodigal son “still afar off… he had compassion on him” and ran and embraced him (Lk 15:20). Matthew and Mark repeatedly tell us that Jesus himself, when he “saw” the crowds, had compassion on them and healed, fed, and taught them (Mt 9:36; 14:14; 15:32; Mk 6:34; 8:02). In the parable of the last judgment in Matthew 25:31-46, what makes some blessed is the fact that, though they didn’t realize it, in seeing the poor and helping them, they saw and helped Jesus. By contrast, what makes others cursed is that they never really did see Jesus suffering and in need because they never saw the poor.








Active Neighbors: Reflections on the Good Samaritan

This parable is not about helping us determine who our neighbor is and to whom we are to show love; its focus is on teaching us about the kind of people we are to be.

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