In many ways the parable of the Good Samaritan makes for a fitting reflection for us today because the subject matter that it deals with directly is how we should respond to violence. It is no secret to any of us that violence continues to plague our nation and our world. With the tragic and senseless killings that have occurred over the past month, which fall into line with far too many other tragic and equally appalling acts of violence, it would not do us justice to turn our attention and reflection to some other topic that is perhaps more appealing or of a more spiritual nature. No, as the Body of Christ, we must deal with the sad and difficult events that have come to pass.
The question for us is how do we as Christians respond to senseless acts of violence in our world. Do we exchange violence for violence? Do we huddle in fear or arm ourselves in preparation for something worse to come? In many places in scripture it is overwhelmingly clear that our response is always to be one of courage. Indeed, these are times that call for extraordinary courage from all of us.
While it would be easy to point to many places in scripture which clearly show that courage is the path Christians are to take, I believe that reading today from Luke, which recounts the parable of the Good Samaritan is especially appropriate because it shows us what we are to do in action.
Nonviolence is a noble tradition in our faith. We see it in the actions of our Lord himself in his passion and recall that he taught us that we are to turn the other cheek if someone is to strike us. We also see nonviolence at work in the lives of the saints and they dedicated their lives to healing, progress, and building a better world. Nonviolence is the foundation of all peacemaking, and every Christian action should be directed to a world where peace reigns above all things. After all, our Lord himself is called the Prince of Peace. I think that it’s appropriate to recall modern-day peacemakers, Catholic peacemakers such as Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton come to mind, but also Saints John Paul and John XXIII whose programs and actions led to great peace in the world. We also might consider that great Protestant voice of nonviolence from the Civil Rights era, Martin Luther King, Jr. who insisted upon nonviolent means.
It is incumbent upon us to have not only an attitude of nonviolence, the attitudes of those I just mentioned and many others, but also we must learn to live lives that demonstrate nonviolence and peacemaking in how we relate to others and in how we respond to others. The parable of the Good Samaritan reveals the actions of one who lived in an ethnically divided world, one who was considered to be an outsider, and as such was marginal person in society. Yet our Lord chose this one as the example of mercy in how he responded to the victim of violence.
Much of how the world sees us and how it judges our actions will have to do with how we respond to violence in our world, and especially how we respond to the victims of violence. Jesus’ command to the scholar of the law was that he was to go and do as the Good Samaritan had done.
In reflecting over the past month, even before the events in Orlando and Dallas, and before the shootings in Louisiana and Minnesota, I have been concerned for some time about the degree of division in our nation. Frankly it goes far beyond us and encompasses the whole world, but we see it clearly. There is division in neighborhoods, and churches, even in our families. It’s time that we must begin to take action to end division, or it will only get worse.
We should not be afraid to talk about racial healing. It just so happens that the Diocese of Austin offers regular get-togethers to with a very diverse mix of people in meetings called “Courageous Conversations on Racism.” As a service to you I plan to make sure that the next meeting is announced here in the parish. Each of us needs to begin making friends with people who are different from us and we need to learn to listen and hear their concerns. The Courageous Conversations meeting is a good place to start.
Of course there are other sources of division that strike closer to home. Often we see it in how we present ourselves to others in social media. We should bear in mind that the Internet creates a wall of separation that doesn’t exist in face-to-face encounters. People say things in comments that they would never say to someone in person. Too often I see things posted on social media that are intended only to divide and incite anger. This is not how Christians should interact with one another or present ourselves to the world.
In dealing with people whose views differ from ours we don’t always have to insist on being right in our particular positions regardless of how strongly we may feel about them; we don’t have to be staunch and immovable when it comes to relating to others. A good practice, and a challenge for all of us, is to begin making friends with people who differ with us. For starters I think we can begin by making friends with someone whose political views differ from our own. That might sound crazy but go and take a couple hours and have a coffee with someone you know who is on the opposite side of where you stand on things. Sit down with them and be their friend. This is how we are going to begin healing divisions.
I want to leave you with this instruction. It bears repeating:
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