Posted by: rosa alba | May 30, 2009

Who is my neighbour; who is Jesus; who is who?


The parable of the Good Samaritan was, of course, prompted by the sly questioning of Jesus as to who is our neighbour. The two main readings the parable (which Benedict XVI  comments on in his book Jesus of Nazareth which I have yet to read, I admit) interpret Christ – more traditionally –  as the Samaritan who saves the broken, bruised traveller: Adam, Everyman, Us. The second more modern interpretation is the more straight forward fact that it was the foreigner, the despised that recognised need and tended the sick, while the injured man’s own people passed him by.  Compassion that transcends boundaries and differences, political, religious, ethnic  or social, yet strips down to the basic of seeing human need and connecting: The hands that tended the wound of the roadside victim – as those of Thomas – plunged into the gory midst of suffering: real connection and real compassion, with no cost-counting. Benedict further underlines in this age of a shrinking world with increasing differences (in terms, I would add of material wealth and necessities) the need to recognise all our neighbours, however we come across them.

There is an further analysis of this parable of the Good Samaritan – I believe I read once – perhaps by Benedict XVI, or so my recollection – in which he maintains that by extension, Christ  the Victim on the Cross or on the Altar is also embodied injured man lying in the ditch whom the Samaritan stops to help -the sacrificial victim , rejected by His own, but acknowledged by the foreigner (as was Jesus when the Samaritan woman gave him to drink). This would fit with Jesus telling us that in giving the hungry food, and the thirsty water (Matthew 25: 34-40).

We are called, as Saint Ignatius says, to give and not to count the cost, to toil, seeking no reward save that of knowing that we do Thy will. The paradox of being Christ to all we meet and in seeing Christ in everyone we encounter.  The gazed upon and the gazer, the signified and the signifier. And this we cannot do with out the Logos, Himself both these things.

“The two characters in this story are relevant to every single human being. Everyone is “alienated,” especially from love (which, after all, is the essense of the “supernatural spendor” of which we have been despoiled); everyone must first be healed and filled with God’s gifts. But then everyone is also called to become a Samaritan — to follow Christ and become like him. When we do that, we live rightly. We love rightly when we become like him, who loved us all first (cf. 1 Jn 4:19).” (Jesus of Nazareth, Joseph Ratzinger)

Yet,  if we have to love our neighbour as ourselves we must first love ourselves.  Self love that is not phyrric nor self seeking (and we are all capable of that) but love of self that is full of compassion, and a sense of self based on serenity, and that is able to integrate the fractured and to let go of that which cannot be integrated – fractured, broken edges that cut or harm us, however that manifest itself – but to let go with a blessing rather than bitterness. (To wish others ill hurts only ourselves and heals nothing).

From the Cross God the Son forgave many, and welcomed others into heaven.  Would Jesus have forgiven Judas Iscariot? We are taught that Judas’ sin was – most of all – that of Despair, belief that he was beyond redemption. We are all assured  of God –  Son and Father -‘s forgiveness if we seek it, whatever the bio-chemical imbalances that blur that reality: none of us too evil or sinful that we cannot be forgiven.

And in seeking forgiveness and reconciliation we must heal our relationships with others, with God and equally – maybe most – importantly with Self.  Until we acknowledge and forgive ourselves our own shortfalls, we cannot move forward in loving our Self, and until we love our Self  (recognise our status as  Child of God, for whom God the Son was made man and died)  we cannot love those around us.  But, basic early years psychology, we need the appropriate affective bonds with the God the Parent, the integration of place and value in our persona: security.

Who is, then, my neighbour, is perhaps not so much the question, as who am I?

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