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The kind of Church Jesus wants: Walking together following the Good Samaritan | Love Digest

Julian Paparella

Thursday, June 2, 2022

Detail of The Good Samaritan by Paula Modersohn Becker (Source: Wikioo.org)
Praying with the Gospels, we get a certain sense of who Jesus is and what’s really important to Him. Jesus reveals Himself to us. So too He reveals to us the kind of Church He wants us to be.
One particular passage starkly illuminates the kind of Church Jesus wants us to be. Jesus is asked by a very religious man: “Who is my neighbour?” The Gospel tells us that the mans asks the question inquiring as to how he can obtain eternal life and “wanting to justify himself”. In reply, Jesus speaks the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37).
A man is beaten and bleeding on the side of the road. A priest and a Levite hurry by on the other side, trying to ignore the wounded man. Worst of all, they may very well have done so for religious reasons, to avoid being ritually “unclean” by touching the blood of the man in the ditch. But a Samaritan – despised by the Jews – stops, looks at the man, has compassion on him, tends to his wounds, and picks him up. He puts the man on his donkey and takes him to the nearest inn so that the innkeeper can continue to care for the man.
The question for us is: Who are we? What kind of Church are we? Are we the Church of the priest and the Levite? Or are we the Church of the Good Samaritan?
Jesus is the Good Samaritan. If we are the Church of Jesus, then the answer is clear. Yet so often we can be like the priest and the Levite. We go quickly, passing by the needs and wounds of others. We can be judgmental or unwelcoming, keeping our distance. Jesus calls us to be close, to have compassion, and to tend to the woundedness of our neighbours.
The synodal conversion of the Church, undertaken all over the world, urges us on in this direction. Synodality means refusing to go alone. It means insisting on walking together. It is also recognizing that sometimes it is me who is in the ditch, in need of being picked up. As a Church that walks together, we cannot be unmoved by those who are on the side of the road or fallen by the wayside. Walking together requires that we reach out to them and walk forward with them.
Oftentimes as a Church, we have ignored the wounds of the world. Sometimes we have even aggravated those wounds. Often our means of healing do not fit the wounds people face: you can’t heal a broken leg with a Band-Aid. Loving our neighbour who is wounded means finding ways of effectively healing him or her.
There is a phrase by French Jesuit Michel de Certeau that really brings this message home. “Not without you,” he would say. “Not without you” is the love in the heart of the Trinity, not wanting to remain by themselves but creating the entire universe. “Not without you” is the cry of Jesus on the cross as He dies for each one of us. “Not without you” is what Jesus’ love in us makes us say to all of our brothers and sisters in humanity, especially those who are wounded, excluded, and struggling in any way. “Not without you” to the Indigenous in our country. “Not without you” to victims of sexual abuse, human trafficking, and addictions. “Not without you” to migrants and refugees. “Not without you” to young people and the challenges they face. “Not without you” to people who are searching for meaning in life. “Not without you” to the elderly who are isolated and alone. “Not without you” to groups in society that the Church has too often mistreated, ignored, and neglected.
“Not without you” is the cry of the Church of the Good Samaritan. The path of synodality urges us on to be that kind of Church: walking forward together and lifting each other up to the ultimate Innkeeper, who is God. This is the kind of Church that Jesus wants. This is the power of His love at work in our hearts.
Come Holy Spirit, pour out the fire of Your love into our hearts, to transform us and send us out to our neighbour as the Church of Jesus, the Good Samaritan.
Julian would be happy to hear from you, with any questions, insights, or suggestions you may have regarding this blog series. He can be reached at jpaparella@slmedia.org.
 
Image: The Good Samaritan by Aimé Morot (Source: Wikimedia Commons)


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