Usually politics isn’t very humorous. But I came across a humorous story concerning the famous Illinois Senator named Everett Dirksen. He served as a senator during the fifties and sixties.
During one of his speeches, Dirksen encountered a disgruntled heckler. At one point during a speech, the heckler cried out, “I wouldn’t vote for you if you were St. Peter.”
Dirksen responded, “If I were St. Peter you couldn’t vote for me. You wouldn’t be in my district.”
(Because of his flamboyant oratorical style, Dirksen was known as the “Wizard of Ooze.”)
1) We are all familiar with today’s gospel. We all know what the Good Samaritan did. But why did he do it? What moved him into action? The gospel says he was “moved with compassion”.
Compassion… Arthur Schopenhauer said, “Compassion is the basis for all morality.”
Cicero observed, “A tear dries quickly, especially when it is shed for the trouble of others.”
The Dali Lama expressed it this way, “If you want to make another happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.” Jesus shows us the way.
When the blind men came to Jesus and asked to be cured, the gospel of Matthew says Jesus was “moved with compassion.” (Mt 20:34) Then he healed them.
When Jesus saw the hungry crowd, the gospel of Mark says Jesus was “moved with compassion.”(Mk 8:2) Then he fed them.
Again in Mark’s gospel, we read that a father brought his mute and deaf son to Jesus and asked, “Have compassion on us and help us.” (Mk 9:22) Jesus cured him. (Mark 9:27)
Before he acted, Jesus first felt sorry for what people were going through.
In chapter 15 of Luke’s gospel, Jesus gives us the story of the Prodigal Son. In that story, Jesus says that, when the father caught sight of the returning son, he was “filled with compassion. He ran to him, embraced him and kissed him.” (Luke 15:20)
Jesus tells us this story to show us what God the Father is like. As we read in Psalm 103, “As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him.” (Psalm 103:13)
It helps to understand today’s gospel if we imagine ourselves as poor beggars on the side of the road of life, beaten and battered by the storms of daily life, sometimes feeling half-dead. Jesus (as the Good Samaritan) looks upon us with compassion, embraces us, and takes us with him to the Father. And the Father (as the Innkeeper), out of compassion, embraces us, cares for us, and welcomes us into his heart.
Compassion forgives. Compassion heals. Compassion transforms. Compassion unites. Our tears are beautiful, when they are shed for the troubles of others.
2) Today’s gospel shows us a, quote-unquote, “initial act.” J. R. R. Tolkien, the author of Lord of the Rings, stated it this way:
“We are called to play the Good Samaritan on life's roadside; but that will be only an initial act. One day the whole Jericho Road must be transformed so that men and women will not be beaten and robbed as they make their journey through life. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it understands that an edifice that produces beggars needs restructuring.”
Restructuring the edifice… In 2005 The Institute for Urban Research and Development developed a ten-year plan titled: TheCity of Pasadena 10Year Strategy to End Homelessness. Much good has been done; yet much more still needs to be done in order to handle this serious problem. There are hundreds of people hurting on the streets that need still good Samaritans as well as the restructuring of the edifice.
3) There is one more application of our gospel today. Imagine that you are the Samaritan and the person lying by the side of the road, stripped, beaten, and half-dead is your mother! How would you respond? She has given you so much. You would respond with great love and urgent care.
Pope Francis’ recent Encyclical, Laudato Si, is about Mother Earth, now stripped, beaten and half-dead. She has given us so much. We should respond with great love and concern. The pope reminds us of our obligation to have compassion and to care for her. Indeed she is in need of urgent care. And in caring for mother Earth we are caring for all those who depend on her for life – which is all of us.
In the spirit of Moses in today’s first reading, we can say, “The call for compassion is not something too mysterious and remote. It is not up in the sky or across the sea. Compassion is something very near to us. It is already in our mouths and in our hearts. We have only to carry it out.”